I can’t is a two letter word not in my vocabulary. I don’t believe in this word. I also find it extremely offensive to say as some people might truly not be able to do something that I can and saying I can’t is offensive. Like for example with my Taumatic Brain Injury, sure there are many things that are hard to do now, but I can walk and talk and so many people truly can’t. So if I throw the word I can’t around it’s pretty unfair. We have a friend who has a TBI (there’s a previous post about getting uncomfortable with his visit) who literally can’t walk or talk. So saying I can’t do something feels very wrong (See next paragraph that helped me understand more or why this might be and how to reframe my I can). There are others I know who lost their life due to a brain injury, so how can I say I can’t when I’m here and sure as hell can try. Instead of those two words I absolutely despise, I try to say I won’t or I choose not to or I don’t. I restructure how I say things often, it’s not only positive and makes what you say so more inclusive to all, but it is a great shift for your mindset.
Reframing I Can– I spoke to a therapist as part of her podcast Trailercast, Elyse Snipes and she said something to me today than so helped me understand all this and my feelings with the I can. I might have some bit of survivors guilt and that’s why I am like this. I never thought I had it, but when she said that it got me thinking she’s probably right. She suggested that I reframe it, reframe the “I Can” and I love it and will try this. “Because I can, I can rest. I can give myself the day off, I can pause so that I can be here for a long time and in the best way possible for my husband, son, friends, family and my self.” I love what Elyse said and love the I can reframed like that. I’m going to read up more on survivors guilt too and explore it and see if maybe this is why I keep overdoing it in life. Hopefully learn some strategies to cope with it and talk to my own psychiatrist about it. Check out Trailercast wherever you get your podcasts from.
Here’s some examples, because sure I can do any of these things or try too, but I don’t and won’t and here is why.
I won’t ride a motorcycle Sure, I can, but I have had my whole life on street or dirt bikes. And although it was my passion, I am not even sure I can anymore with my physical abilities. I don’t care to try, there is no way I am pushing my luck. I shouldn’t be here or like I am, I have had multiple concussions, a broken back and a severe TBI so I have decided it can’t be in my life, it’s not worth the risk anymore. Not to mention friends would leave me and so would my husband if I decided too, but I get it. I don’t think I did at first, but I truly get it now. My life is so much more important and yes I could hit my head in a car wreck or walking down the street, but I choose to not do anything that puts me at a greater risk plain and simple.
I choose not to drive. The hospital never took my license which was shocking to me as I was discharged home not allowed to be alone, had to have my husband get power of attorney over me and I couldn’t remember each day. I had a license and a car still. But I knew I couldn’t drive, I tried once when I still had my license and it wasn’t safe and did not feel good to me. My heart rate got up into the 140-150s. I feel drunk daily and I don’t drink, so why would I decided to drive and out others at risk or harm. So on my 39th birthday I turned in my license so if I ever decided I can drive, I have to jump through hoops to get my license again.
I don’t snowboard. I used to love to snowboard, like a lot. I always had a season pass and usually went up once a week at least, usually multiple times a week. I have traveled to other states to snowboard like Tahoe in California and Alaska. After I broke my back I only went a few times. Due to that injury it really slowed me down. When I used to snowboard, the most fun for me was bombing hills super fast, jumping jumps, riding rails, doing tricks and riding back country. So for me so much of the fun was in things that now are dangerous for me, even though I wore a helmet after a few gnarly concussions from jumping. I think to feel safer and pretty low risk I would just need to go carve in powder and that wasn’t where I got my love for it. Yes carving in powder was fun, but I like to live on the edge, I like to go fast, I loved powder on super steep inclines that still would pose danger to my hitting my head again. So I just decided it’s not something I would do anymore, I don’t know if I would be able to tone it down and honestly I don’t even know If I could still board safely and not fall with my balance issues, so I choose not to go there and I’m grateful for how much I have got to do with Snowboarding and traveling too to do it. I think if I really felt the urge to be on the mountain again, I would volunteer again with Snowdays, a non profit I used to volunteer with teaching at risk youth how to snowboard. Those were amazing times and trips. But at some point after my injury I gave away my board and gear. A lot of amazing, expensive gear including my helmet and I would not even teach without a helmet for risk of fall on the ice and hard packed snow.❄️
I do not and will not raft. I write this one from Maupin Oregon, where I spent years rafting and it is a rafting Mecca. We are camping. I won’t whitewater raft. I don’t feel safe doing it as my swimming is not what it used to be, I could wear a helmet to protect my head, but honestly I don’t know if I would enjoy it. I think with my PTSD it would not really be fun, plus rafting was something 8 years ago and before and was something I loved to do while drinking. So that chapter is closed, I don’t drink and I do not want to do anything to risk another brain injury so I will just enjoy the town, show my husband around and watch others down the river and try to bring memories back from my previous life and adventures.
I am not physically able to work full time. I think in this one would be something I would say I can’t do. But I won’t say I can’t work. I can work, as we have learned it just has to be very limited because of my energy struggles, i am not able to work full time. I don’t have to work since we sold our home and made sure we can live on one income, but I want to work. And sure I would love to do a job like I used to, related to my degree and all my hard work to get there but I won’t. I don’t feel qualified enough to anymore. I lost so much memory and I don’t know what I know and wouldn’t feel good doing a job that requires my degree and experience when I don’t feel that I am the most qualified candidate anymore. But I have found other ways to feel like my career and education isn’t a waste, it just looks differently now. It looks like working an entry level position for a local trauma program that provides education for things I am passionate about like drunk driving, helmet clinic and fall prevention classes. I can work about 1 four hour shift a week is what I have found. I can volunteer with OHSU Brain Institute and their ThinkFirst Program speaking to middle school students about brain and spine safety. Those shifts can be one hour a day, so far the most I have done are 3 and they were 3 separate weeks and I made sure to not schedule them when I had a work shift scheduled that week.
I won’t do any extreme sports that are risky for another bump on my head or to my head. This goes to all the things I have done and loved in my past, I choose not to do them because I want to lower my risk as much as possible. Like wakeboarding, surfing, long boarding. So many people get TBIs and other injuries by doing these things, I am at the point where after I broke my back, now have a brain injury and still live with pain and challenges from both, I have decided I am so lucky for all I did and was able to do, but for now it’s time to slow down to less riskier things. I still have travel, I’m so lucky I can still travel and alone even and I can still camp, I can still hang out with friends, I can still read which some with brain injury can’t. So I take all the things I’m able to do and do them! The things I don’t do anymore were once a part of my life and so fun and I’m so grateful for those experiences. They helped shape who I am today, all the experiences I had doing them helped me accept not doing them and to be happy with my life not participating in them.
I don’t drink alcohol. I choose not to drink. I don’t want to drink. I used to love to drink. I then got a DUI that woke me up. It woke me up to the stupid things I would do while drinking, the ways I would act, the things I was covering up inside with alcohol. I quit drinking almost 3.5 years ago and it really was the best decision for me. I don’t care if people drink, but it’s definitely not for me.
I challenge you to think about what you say and how you say things. I challenge you to do anything you do now, either the normal things or fun things and fully appreciate what you have and can do, because so many people can’t and don’t have the luxury and that can be because of so many reasons. Injury, privilege, disease, support and more. Just live your best life and do all the things you love and be kind to others, you never know someone’s reason, purpose, obstacles or challenges in life.