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.
Your ADHD Mind, Body & Soul Needs You To Get Outside!
Spring is around the corner and is the perfect time for exploring the great outdoors; camping, swimming, running or any sport that gets you outside. Make this season the most by using this opportune time to delve into activities that utilize excess energy so common with ADHD. It may just benefit your ability to focus as well. This is great advice for all and especially for people the ADHD mind.
Exercise has a positive effect on harnessing the ability to focus on things that may appear mundane to people with ADHD. Through diet and exercise, certain feel good hormones, endorphins, are released that may help someone with ADHD focus on the tasks they do not enjoy. So, start enjoying this spring lots of outdoor or physical activities.
According to author, John Ratey in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,
Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,”….. “On a practical level, it causes one to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.
Finding the right routine may be the key to developing a long-term exercise commitment. List activities you feel may be something you could enjoy. It is always helpful to see what activities would be a natural fit by taking into account body size and type. There are fun online quizzes to test your interests and body type in choosing a new activity such as doctoroz.com/quiz
Why is it so important to indulge in physical activity and not, say, play a video game? Physical movement is not an exact cure but, it has proved to be an appropriate intervention for ADHD symptoms. It can have a positive effect with ADHD medications.
The pharmaceutical industry recognizes the need for balance and has implemented a multi modal approach with programs that offer exercise routines and academic coaching along with their medication. Prescription drug usage, to curb the symptoms of ADHD, has increased exponentially. The prescriptions have seen a rise from 34.8 to over 48.4 million. The multi modal approach looks holistically at the balance one’s their life with strategies, medication, diet and exercise.
According to a research published in the “Journal of Attention Disorders”, just 26 minutes of regular daily physical exercise over a period of eight weeks, significantly alleviated ADHD symptoms in grade school kids. I would say this is true for adults as well! Staying indoors and allowing technology and social networks to consume us are detrimental even without ADHD. The lack of exercise and physical excursion causes obesity, depression, laziness and a drop in focus for the general population and affects people will ADHD potentially more.
Even light physical activity recovers moods and improves cognitive functionality by actively releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin; this is very similar to how stimulant medications. So in essence a few hours of “fun” can help with the symptoms of ADHD.
So, get out there and find something you like to do!
Make a list of activities in your area. If running, walking, or doing pushups don’t interest you, it is okay. It’s about finding the right fit. Find that ONE physical activity that you enjoy, it does not matter if it is martial arts, a dance style or gymnastics. As long as you are getting the use of your muscles and releasing those endorphins, you will improve you sense of well-being. If you participate in activities that require teamwork and social interaction then you might just make these outings an easy way to make friends as well.
Raz Coaching specializes in helping people with executive function challenges and find careers they will love and land them. Read more at www.razcoaching.com/about Or sign up for the weekly blog or purchase my new book Happiness+Passion+Purpose. Itis packed full of exercises and strategies you can put to use immediately.
In this episode, Michelle discusses 5 steps to a new you with ways to sustain them throughout the year.
The ancestor of every action is a thought.
When you struggle with executive function challenges such as ADD, thoughts can be frantic, unbridled and elusive. You may laugh at people who ask you what your New Year’s Resolution is each year. You don’t “play that game” since you know all too well that it could not be a sustained change. You may even think you thrive on your ability to switch topics and focus so quickly. This can lead you to accept your short-term goals and live life by the moment with no long-term goals. Yet, many have a deep yearning for more in their life, but they don’t know how to go about seeking lasting change.
Michelle recognizes how difficult it is for people to sustain change but shows you the way that is possible with consistently sustained effort and most importantly accountability.
Real inner change and paradigm shifts come from a deep burning desire that aligns with your core values.
To learn more go to www.razcoaching.com and download the worksheet that goes with this episode. The 5 Steps To A New You.
Boosting Your Self-Esteem Will Give You a Fresh Outlook
When you’re down on yourself and thinking negatively, it can permeate into your current career, or you might not be landing the job that you want if you’re looking for one.
Shift your perspective and change how you feel about your job situation and outlook.
Take Brenda for example, she was feeling drained and defeated by recent comments about her “fun factor” at work. She had been told by a fellow employee to “lighten up” at work and not take everything so seriously. This put her into a tailspin of depression and self doubt when she shared it with her family and they agreed that she needed to lighten up. Brenda was drained and felt unappreciated in her life and work. In her mind, she felt that everything she did was for the future of her family and work and it was serious business. She was left feeling conflicted and full of self-doubt at work and home which was affecting her performance.
She came to me looking for ways to change her “fun factor”.
After working together and defining what she considered fun, it was clear that having order and structures in place where important to her in order to have space in her mind for enjoyment. Once she felt things had a purpose and place, she was able to relax, lighten up and actually have fun.
We looked at the positive qualities of a person that had a personality like hers. We were able to come up with terms like: responsible, leadership, organization and goal oriented. We role-played situations in her work where her strengths were demonstrated and how others benefited from them.
She found that her personality contributed to the ability for others to take a lighter role and enjoy their work because of her traits and work habits. She felt fulfilled seeing the flow and dynamics of others enjoying their jobs that she organized. This was her enjoyment, which made her happier and content.
In the end, she didn’t change a thing, but rather embraced her own characteristics seeing how her characteristics contributed to others in a positive way.
She became happier and it showed in all areas of her life!
If you were to describe yourself, you might say some negative characteristics, like, “I’m no fun.” You might say that because you have heard it from others or perhaps because you don’t find yourself smiling and laughing a lot.
How could you shift this thought into one that empowers you to have a new view of where you stand with your career or job search?
The answer is to flip the negative to a positive.
I Am No Fun.
This inward statement becomes “I am serious and responsible” when you focus on the positive. Doing so can give you insights into what kind of work you enjoy and more confidence that you are just the kind of employee employers want.
A serious and responsible worker is someone who completes their tasks, is helpful to customers, and who takes the initiative to solve a problem when they see it without being asked to.
If you’re a serious and responsible person, you also probably prefer a certain type of work culture, which is important to know if you’re going to job interviews. Ask about the culture of the company, and pay attention to clues from other employees and the building’s environment when you are there to interview. Do you think you’d enjoy working there?
I’m too Opinionated.
If you’ve been told that you’re too opinionated, and you believe it, it’s time to look at the situation differently. While there is definitely a time and place to share your opinion and a nice way to do it, you can say, instead, “I’m a leader, and I’m courageous and able to take charge.”
When no one else will say what needs to be said for the organization to move forward, you are the one spearheading the efforts to get the organization going in the right direction. If you have ideas about how things should be done, you’ve got the guts to lead a group and help ensure that those ideas are implemented.
A good leader always listens to those around them and takes their thoughts and advice into consideration, but, by sharing your own ideas in a constructive way, you’re helping the company take steps toward improvement.
I’m Not a Good Decision Maker.
Feeling like you’re not great at finding solutions to problems can be reframed as “I’m a person who takes all views into consideration.” You are someone who does not blindly make decisions without considering the risks involved.
You seek out the input of all stakeholders, which is a truly team-oriented action. When you have all the information you think is necessary, then you can make a decision for your organization or for the next step in your job search.
It can be difficult to make decisions, but, by taking active steps to research the situation, you’ll be equipped to make the right choice when it’s time.
Viewing negative statements about yourself from a different perspective can help you improve your self-esteem and help you feel great about the job you have or the job search process.
When you have a positive perspective about yourself everyone benefits.
Raz Coaching specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD, PTSD, Stress, TBI’s and ASD find careers they will love and land them. Read more at www.razcoaching.com/about Or sign up for the weekly blog and learn about my new book Happiness+Passion+Purpose.