Day 31 What a Month! The Challenge Ends Today…..Final Thoughts
The 31 Day TBI Challenge for CHANGE for Veterans ends today! When I came up with this challenge for March, brain injury awareness month, I didn’t factor in how difficult it is for me to do things consistently, in order and definitely to stick with writing the challenge for 31 days! But, every day this month an article got posted. Sometimes later in the day than I wanted, but if you remember a few weeks ago, we learned about a phrase I coined about what I learned from my own TBI “The Art of Good Enough”. For me personally, this Challenge was a challenge for myself. I am happy with the outcome and I know from the comments and the fact that just on The Arms Forces Facebook page alone, the number of visitors to the page increased more than 4 times what it was before the Challenge. That tells me that a lot of people are interested in the subject matter and took the time to come to the page and read consistently during the month.
Educating and advocating about traumatic brain injury did not begin on March 1st for me nor will it end on March 31st. Just as a TBI survivor faces the life-long challenges of TBI, I will continue to be a force for CHANGE for those with TBI, especially our veterans who I have been called to serve for as long as I am able.
I get asked often, why and how I got involved working with the military with invisible wounds. Sure, it makes sense about the TBI part, since I am a TBI survivor, but why the military? Why not just work with civilians with TBI? I frequently refer to myself as “Just a woman form Ohio with a TBI who cares deeply about our country, our veterans with invisible wounds and their families”. Though The Arms Forces is not a faith-based organization, my own reasons for founding it are spiritual. God made it very clear to me in April of 2009 that I was to work with the military with TBI and PTSD. I wanted to fight him a bit about this, as I just went through 9years of a very rough life after my injuries. I remember looking to the ceiling in my room and yelling out “WHAT?? Not me God. I don’t know a thing about the military. Please don’t do this to me”. Well, nothing came along that took that tugging of the heart away, so I knew I couldn’t fight it.
A few naysayers tried to discourage me saying that since I was a civilian the military would not relate to me and their culture made them want to stay with “their own”. I found out quite quickly just how wrong they were!
My journey for the 9 years prior to when I was called to serve our veterans, was filled with the extreme loss that many with TBI experience. My marriage ended, my finances left me near destitute and homeless, many friends didn’t understood so they left, I wasn’t able to work enough to sustain myself, my self-esteem had plummeted, my depression was getting worse, my fear was keeping me stuck, my stress was giving me physical symptoms of a heart attack and my blood pressure was at stroke levels. I was lonely, confused, scared and felt loss and more alone than I have ever felt in my life.
This doesn’t sound like the woman you know as the Founder/President of The Arms Forces. And you know what? She isn’t the same woman. In the two years since that day in April when I knew where my mission in life was, I have come so far. I still have so many challenges with my own TBI. Not many people realize this, as they think since I do what I do that I am healed, recovered, rehabilitated. But, TBI doesn’t go away. It gets better, more manageable, and we learn to cope, to disguise, and to find a way to live again. For many they are surviving, but not thriving. But, I found a way to thrive. I found it in giving back, taking what was the most horrible experience of my life and turning it into something positive. The journey that I have been on since that day in 2000 on The Blue Ridge Parkway in West Virginia when my body slammed into the road, to today a severe TBI survivor who is the President of a nonprofit, has taken me from “Extreme adversity to joyful renewal”.(c)
Joyful renewal doesn’t mean my life is perfect. Far from it, I must say. There are still times in my life when fear, depression, confusion, seep into my days. But, I have the tools now that I have learned, to empower myself. I know I can have a TBI, have some very junky days, but I know that they won’t last. I know that I can hurt, feel pain, be down but still find a way to move forward in life. This ability to have a joyful renewal in the face of extreme adversity is based on something that is elusive and missing in many therapy programs. HOPE! Hope is the food, the sustenance we need to say, sure life is tough, but if I persevere, if I continue to push forward I can do this…I can make a life worth living…I can have a passion and pursue it…I can have a purpose and fulfill it…I can do more than survive with a TBI, I can thrive!
The CHANGE that you have been collecting for The Arms Forces is not just about money or coins. What you have been doing all month is what TBI survivors need to do to take themselves on their journey from extreme adversity to joyful renewal. Survivors need to find a way to take something that is “money in their bank” their positive CHANGE in life and deposit it into their life every day. Little by little a life begins to fill up with so much positive CHANGE and begins to overflow with positive currency!! Before you know it, you have a treasure chest of positive experiences and tools to use to manage life after TBI.
The Arms Forces embraces veterans with invisible wounds, and their families. I invite you to visit our website for more information about the services we provide; services that hit the mark, fill the gap and bring the heart and soul back to programs and services that are built on one human being reaching out to another human being in love and trust to help them in life.
I didn’t have that person in my life who understood me, who knew what I was going through someone like our Life Navigation Coaches to mentor me, encourage me, have faith in me and empower me. I made it through, by the Grace of God. I don’t want a veteran TBI survivor to have to go through the struggles and heartbreak I did. That is why The Arms Forces exists. There is an easier way on the journey after TBI and we believe The Arms Forces leads the way on that journey!
I ask all of you to become a partner with The Arms Forces on our mission. Please go to your change jar, and make a donation to our organization. Write a check, sell something you don’t need and donate the money, have a bake sale, a motorcycle run, an event in your community to help support us and donate the money to The Arms Forces so we can continue on our mission with veterans and their families. We are a 501(c)(3), so donations are tax-deductible. Our mission is great, our perseverance is strong, and our programs are filling gaps and changing lives!!! Be a part of that CHANGE!!
My heart is overflowing with love for what I am honored to do, working with our veterans and their families. I thank you for your support, your interest in this 31 Day TBI Challenge for CHANGE. I am so blessed and very grateful I have a TBI or I would never be doing what I am doing!!!
With open arms,
Founder/President and severe TBI survivor
The Arms Forces
PO Box 981
Maumee, OH 43537