Willingness, Desire and Determination Led Me Here: Dr. Lisa
This is the final part of a 4-part story of one very brave and dedicated TBI survivor. While this story concludes here, I can assure you Lisa is not done. She has more ambition than I have ever seen in a person. She is your comeback kid in spite of so many obstacles placed in front of her over the years. These stories only scratch at the surface as to the challenges she has faced and endured throughout her life.
She still struggles with executive functions but has a wealth of knowledge and resources to help her navigate them to be successful. She is now Dr. Lisa who can help others with a wide range of mental health issues that are keeping them stuck from living to their fullest potential. She works with others now using her wealth of knowledge and personal experiences to have profound effects on many lives.
Overcoming, One Day at a Time
I went back to school with the focus of studying how mental health can impact the quality of life for mild to moderate TBI survivors. I listened to fellow TBI survivors discuss their struggles with low self-esteem, depression, and shame as these variables were reported to be the most common among the survivors. Negative encounters with people have turned me into an introvert, my desire to understand what other survivors and I experience has turned me into a researcher.
When I walked on-stage for my doctoral hooding ceremony, as a graduate with high distinction, I thought about all the obstacles, steps, motivation, and my desire to serve other people. School enabled me to mature in ways I could not believe. School was my rehabilitation process. The car accident changed my life no doubt, but school provided me with opportunities to learn.
When people said, “I can’t help you”, school taught me how to look for other resources to try to help myself.
Do not misunderstand, we all need someone, and at times, we need a professional to talk to. I need to give credit to my vocational-rehabilitation counselor because she has put up with a lot from me over the years. She met me when I slurred my words, could not form sentences easily, and I forgot so many things (even the counselor’s name at times), but the counselor also nudged me even when I wanted to be left alone.
Over the years, she has put me in touch with some great resources such as Michelle who have helped me learn in a face-to-face manner how to deal with things which I struggled and still struggle with. I do not mind sharing that Michelle has been of great help to me when I have needed to process overstimulation and processing issues.
Having someone who understands my challenges and who wants to help instead of belittling, is such a blessing. One thing among many, which I have learned is, my mind can tell me there is no one who seems to be willing and able to help me, that is just in my head.
Wonderful professionals aside, there must be a willingness, determination, and a desire to change. Some of the greatest help to change comes from within, and through faith in a power greater than myself. For me, that is God, through the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
I chose to share my story because so many people are stigmatized by circumstances beyond their control and in the end, each of us has a choice on how we deal with the cards life has dealt us.
In my case, when I hit an obstacle, it knocked me down and I had to muster the motivation to get back up and try again. Sometimes, it is people who have endured hardship in life who work the hardest to make meaningful changes in their lives. Did I prove the doubters wrong? I have no idea, and frankly, it does not matter because the biggest doubter was myself. If you would have asked me eleven years ago if I would be where I am today, I would have laughed until my ribs hurt.
Someone was watching out for me, carrying me when there was only one set of footprints, and believed in me when I did not believe in myself.
My life is not a bed of roses and I do struggle, but through all the trials, obstacles, and joys, yes joys, there has been one constant in my life and that is faith. Without faith, I would have died at my kitchen table ten years ago. Without faith, I would not have had the courage to move forward when I kept hitting negativity by others and roadblocks within my own denial. Though there have been many challenges in my life, I count my blessings and realize I would not be where I am today without the love of God and His faith in me, when I had no faith in myself.
Life is still a struggle and though I have initials after my name, I am still disrespected by those who cannot see past the blinders in front of their eyes and only choose to see me as “different”, “awkward”, or “odd”. The shunning, rejection, being passed-over for jobs I am more than qualified for, and the sense of not being good enough to fit in society, some would say it is all in my head, but when the same thing keeps happening and only the location has changed, it gives one pause. The other day, I was talking with a member of law enforcement, having a casual conversation and when he found out I have a doctorate degree, I thought he was going to fall flat to the ground. The look of shock on his face was somewhat funny, but at the same time, it was insulting.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about inequality with most reference to race. Discrimination and presupposition are equal opportunity social bias and injustice perpetrators. People do not ask to be born a certain way, nor do people ask to be injured and disabled.
Learning to accept the difference between who they once were and who they are now is a huge challenge in and of itself. Being discriminated against because someone is different, that’s not only social unjust, it shows a lack of self-respect for the individual(s) who cannot accept difference from their own perspective.
My name is Lisa. I have many flaws and many talents. I am, different. I am, a TBI survivor. I am, TBI Survivor Strong.
Lisa Marie Ansell, EdD, LPC, NCC, CBIS Licensed Professional Counselor National Certified Counselor Certified Brain Injury Specialist Adjunct Professor at a Private University
If you missed the previous parts of this story you can find them here: part 1, part 2, part 3.
A Damaged Spirit, Cognitive Struggles and The Determination To Overcome
A 4-part story of adversity, courage, hope and success for one TBI survivor
Lisa, with a damaged spirit and facing many cognitive struggles, embraces her disabilities in the midst of healing with the will and determination to overcome her challenges.
This is part two of a four-part series of how one traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor overcame obstacles to improve her quality of life when appropriate resources seemed out of reach. We learned how Lisa’s life changed after a terrible accident in Part I: Overcome Obstacles Instead of Being Overcome by Them. These obstacles and challenges associated with TBI survivors include many skills associated with execution functions of the brain. These skilled functions can be thought of as the command center of the brain that controls the cognitive processes such as decision-making, impulse control, attention, emotional regulation, and working memory.
Here is part two of her story.
Change Takes Time
Have you ever heard the term, “doing a geographical”? Many times, geographicals do not work but in my case, it saved my life; literally. Somehow, I was able to get a good job in another county. I got good references from people in the other community, I think mostly so I would leave. If people think they fooled me, they did not but I needed to go somewhere else to pick up the pieces before my pieces were so broken, they could not be repaired. The job did not work out even though I told the employer about the head injury and how it may take longer for me to get the information into my long-term memory, but once I got the information into my long-term memory, I was good.
The trainer grew so impatient with me, she snapped pencils in frustration.
I knew my time was done then.
So began my employment woes.
Headaches after the accident were brutal and constant. One day, after moving to the new community, I had the worst headache, my speech was worse than it had been since the accident (four years prior), and I thought I was having a stroke. To the Emergency Room I headed only to be diagnosed with a migraine and sent on my way. The clinic connected me with a kind patient navigator who turned out to understand my circumstances better than most, being a TBI survivor as well. This kind soul connected me with resources that assisted with getting services and referrals to people who deal with TBI.
I felt like the thunderstorms were heading east and finally, sunny weather was in my forecast.
The new community had their own ideas about my “strange” behavior and I again faced judgement and incorrect opinions. Employment opportunity labeled me “a liability” and spread the word through the county of my ineptness, which spread like a wildfire. There is nothing better in the world than being judged, tried, and convicted of being an indecent person by people who have no willingness to understand someone who is different, and in their opinions, insignificant. What if it had been them in the accident, how would they feel?
During my recovery, I have seen the kind side of people for the first encounter, then the (not so) subtle body language telling me to stay away from them. Talk about a self-esteem killer! It has been my experience that people push away what they do not understand, and rebuke what is different than their interpretation of normal. So, is their version of normal the norm for the rest of us? Why are they so special?
Just saying. Is anyone relating to any of this?
Aside from doctors and becoming a subject within a sample population for a research study to receive free treatment for my TBI in exchange for data for the researchers, I found another form of rehabilitation. Having been dealt more rejection after the accident than I had previously experienced in life, I found acceptance, in school.
Remember the words from the Junior Associate lawyer who pretty much told me I would not amount to much in life? If you do not, I did. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I applied to a university expecting to be laughed at (behind my back of course) but instead, I got accepted. Let me repeat the word, accepted.
Between the words of the Junior Associate lawyer and reading the word, accepted, I was motivated to prove all the doubters wrong.
School was tough. I did not retain the information within the reading assignments the first time, the second time, or even the fifth time. I had to reread the material repeatedly to comprehend enough to answer one question. I do not believe any of my professors knew how hard I had to work, they just commented on my being a good student.
While the rest of the world (it seemed) thought this “different, awkward, and strange” woman would not amount to much, I trusted God’s plan for my life, whatever that was, and each time I got a good grade, I felt accepted and more than my brain injury, I was learning how to process information, formulate sentences, and re-learn critical thinking skills.
I began to have belief in myself again.
Someone within the community who knew I was living out of my pick-up truck or a motel when I had money, told me about a job possibility they knew I had experience with. I was upfront and honest with the potential employer regarding my injury and after going through some hoops, I was offered a job and have been with the employer for nearly eight years.
The job schedule worked with my academic studies and eventually, I was able to move into my own apartment after seven months of living in my truck or in a motel. I still get people who judge me and think they have the right to draw erroneous conclusions as to why I am the way I am, but I really don’t care anymore as I trust my abilities and know my job. If I cannot do my job due to having a tough day with overstimulation, I have an agreement with my boss that I will call and take the day off.
There have not been many days I have had to call off work for overstimulation reasons. But the words of people who have tarnished my reputation have created a disrespect of me within the employment that no matter how much I recover, to them, I am just the pain in the butt who shows up for work and does her job.
Gossip kills not only a reputation, but it also does damage to a spirit.
As I sign-off for this post, I am going to share with you that this “awkward” and “different” TBI survivor graduated with honors and received a bachelor’s degree five years after the accident without using accommodations.
My determination wanted to do the work without crutches; I needed to prove to myself that I could do it.
Walking across the stage to shake the hand of the university’s president with one hand and grasp my diploma holder with the other hand did so much for my self-esteem and belief of becoming more than my brain injury.
To the doubters, it almost felt like I was giving them the bird, though I knew there may be nothing I can do to prove them wrong in their own minds. But to myself, I found a part of me that I did not know existed before the accident. Maybe there was a blessing in disguise within a terrible experience.
Motivating your teenager at home is hard even on a good day. But As we are in the middle of our stay at home orders, it is getting even harder. In this episode, Michelle shares 5 motivational tips that can get your teen moving in the right direction with good spirits.
Michelle is a mother of 3 and has a lot of experience motivating her own kids and hundreds of other teenagers through her work with academic and career coaching over the years.
She will share here wisdom and insight with these helpful 5 motivations tips for your teen at home during this crisis.
In the previous episode she focused on helping you navigate the online classes and assignments with her specialized 6 Step Online Planner. You can view it HERE
We are in some really challenging times. The way we go about our life is changing minute by minute.
Are you finding yourself in new roles?
You might have just become a teacher or an academic coach and a home health care provider. Things that you didn’t typically think that would be in your repertoire but now are forced upon you by these new changes. Rightfully so, we need to be responsible citizens.
You might be feeling overwhelmed, confused and frustrated.
I want to ease some of that frustration and fear of what you are now being strapped with. If you are having to help a college student or a public school student at home, I will be able to offer you some advice.
This is what I do for a living every day. For over 10 years, I have helped hundreds of students to be successful in their academic life and career planning. Specifically, I work with clients in organizing, time management, task initiation, planning, prioritizing and keeping them accountable. These are what we call the areas of executive functions.
How is this online format going to work?
Maybe they’ve had a class online before and it wasn’t successful for them. These can be triggers and barriers to their academic success in the coming weeks. So, I want to give you five online school survival tips to help get you started.
You got this!
I often tell my clients or parents of students that I work with what I do is very systematic and it can be done by anybody. The difference is that I’m a third party. So sometimes, when there are internal conflicts or triggers within families, it’s nice to have that third party. I know from firsthand because I certainly paid it forward within my own family and I would still do that today if needed.
So let’s get down to these strategies.
I want to make this quick for you. When you start online schooling, it’s essential to be your own best advocate. It’s important that you self-advocate if you’re not understanding something and need clarity. You need to reach out to your instructors. You’re in charge of letting people know what you need best.
Now for a younger student, this is where the parent has to be intuitive. But it’s important to advocate and it’s going to take a while to get used to.
Start off with writing out what you need or what your student needs to be a successful online student. Share it with somebody that is helping you transition into this new learning environment.
Second of all, there are many resources in this day and age. We are so lucky that we have resources such as online tutoring programs. A lot of the schools probably are going to be offering those. There’s online counseling you can seek as well. Just like myself, It’s really something that can be done through Skype Zoom or Facetime. It’s very common these days.
Make sure that you know what your resources are.
If you’re going to be struggling in one particular subject area and you know that you are going to need help, ask questions about available resources. And that goes back to being your own best advocate.
Goals are super important to set when you have a lot of unstructured time. When I’m working with clients that have online classes, the biggest pitfall for them is not setting weekly and daily goals. That’s a crucial part of what I do. They need to see what’s in front of them and what they want to get done each day and week.
When the instructors give you what they want you to do, take the initiative to set goals and structure your day accordingly. An example of setting goals might be: if your instructors are giving you weekly to-dos on a Sunday evening or Monday, start the week off with a goal-setting session. What is it that you need to accomplish by that Friday and budget your time accordingly for each class. Structure it so that you have built-in time for breaks lunches and tutoring time if you need that.
If you take the time to set the goals that will give you purpose each day and a focus which is an added bonus. Right now, I’m seeing a lot of students pretty bored even though they’re kind of excited to not be in classes. They may have a list of some things they can do around the house, but they’re not supposed to be outside interacting with other people in very large groups. There is only so much downtime they can have. And we really need a purpose and something to do for our mental health. Lay this out with them on a planner with each class and budget that time accordingly. Map it out so that they have a purpose each day. Match it with the weekly plan from the instructor. Your student is going to have a daily purpose now.
Read The Instructions
It’s essential to look at the instructions and read the syllabus. Now as easy and common sense as that sounds, I can’t tell you how many students that I work with that don’t read the instructions. They don’t look at the rubrics. They’re not following the syllabus.
The instructors are going to be communicating a lot via email and possibly sending documents for you to read and follow. If you have a student challenged with some of the executive functions, take the time during goal-setting to go over the syllabus for the week. Check the rubric if they’re doing a project so that they understand what is expected of them. This is an independence skill that even college students struggle with at times. They don’t take that time to just follow through to make sure that what they think the professor or teacher wants is actually what they think they need to do. There are often times when they’re mismatched. I cannot stress enough to take the time to read the materials.
Time To Organize with a planner
I do know there are a lot of instructors out there that are using individual Web sites that can be pretty confusing. So if you feel frustrated with too many instructional sites to coordinate, come up with a plan to take charge of your time and get organized with a planner.
I have a systematic way that I do it. Have all of your subjects across the top of your planner with the due dates set and then backfill it with how you are going to get it done. Start with the end in mind. For example, if there is a project or a test, put that on planner and color code it red, so it stands out. I do it by the month and by the week with students so they can be very clear on what it is that’s important and then backfill it. The next step is to plan how you are going to meet that goal of the test, paper, or project and backfill each step to make the work manageable.
It is super important to hold them accountable each day. Not only are we taking charge of the time by getting organized, but they will also know what’s expected of them. The accountability I recommend is for whoever’s in charge of overseeing student work, whether it be an elementary, high school or college student, look at the progress at the end of the day. I have my clients color code a completed task as blue to show it completed.
I cannot stress accountability as a critical factor in your student’s success enough. In our distracted lives, we tend to forget to follow through on things. We set these goals. We are organized but we don’t follow through to make sure that it got done. In our current situation, most parents are juggling working out of their home, taking care of their family, trying to get groceries and maybe taking care of an elderly person. There’s a lot of stress and there’s a lot going on.
What I recommend and I do myself is to put reminders in my phone. I ask my clients to set reminders in their phones as well. The accountability check-ins at the end of the day improve academic success. Have some kind of reward in place when it does get done. Make it something they can do like gaming or binge-watching a movie series are ideas.
The accountability is what’s going to make them feel accomplished every day. If the student does not get done or meets a daily goal, you’ve got the flexibility to be at home and plenty of time to complete it.
I hope that these tips helped you.
Advocate for yourself
Resources: make sure you’ve got them in place
Goals: Set them each week
Read the syllabus: make sure you understand what the instructors want (rubric)
Take charge of your time and get organized with accountability.
If you do these five things, you will set yourself up during these challenging times for success. You might just help your student become an independent learner by doing the work on his or her own.
Once you follow this for a few weeks, they will get into a routine and it will begin to flow.
It’s going to be a different home environment but you can get into this flow and be successful. This is a time when we really need to embrace our duties. Things are changing day by day but you can put into place a routine at home that your students can adjust to quickly.