I tend to think that what I learned along my life journey, especially since my TBI, is more important than the events that happened along the way.
Whatever experience we go through, it is the experience we gain that has value. It is what we feel, think and believe that motivates us, and inspires others.
Before I fell on my head (horse!) I had a successful career and a brain that never failed me.
I can remember as a child that I would thoughtfully 'file' all experiences in an orderly fashion in my brain. I would think through something and break it down, so a visit to a jumble sale would have all manner of connections such as, tombola, bunny, doctors, mum, and so on. Each of these links contained its own library and made learning (I had the reading ability of a 16-year-old at the age of five) and finding internal information about anything, extremely easy.
It wasn't only the episodic data that I would 'file' though. I would consider what I had learned, especially about my relationships to other people, and would also purposefully match this thinking against my perspective of my 'self.'
Take the tombola day. I was five and very small for my age. I can clearly recall my mother being kind to me in front of our family doctor. I thought all the best doctors were called 'Dr Anderson' because he was so special and had a kindly manner and face.
Never one to give me anything, when Dr Anderson saw me eyeing the bunny on the prize table and remarked I had fallen in love with it, my mother, keen to impress him, bought me a chance to roll the tumble and pull out a ticket.
I didn't win; I thought I must be unlucky. I thought, 'I never get anything as nice as that bunny,' and 'no one can see how I feel inside.'
I could list many other thoughts that I can still clearly recall about all the years of my life right up to July 23rd, 2000, when I fell on my head, but hopefully you have the picture.
I was never concerned about 'filing' dates or superfluous facts, because I knew everything was naturally held against and in a linear order, and I would consciously make decisions to lower the importance ratings on these details.
What I did really care about, was checking my experiences against my beliefs and my knowledge about how life worked. So, when I didn't win the bunny, and had those initial thoughts, I was quick to check each one because I was very well aware that whatever we file becomes a part of us.
Before filing, 'I must be unlucky,' I changed it to, 'I am always blessed,' and created a link so that I would not only remember the connection in the future, but would become extremely adept at never giving that negative response a chance to happen again.
I was consciously choosing the foundations of my wanted psychology. I knew that whatever I filed had to be a match to my own truth and that my brain, and my emotions, would eventually become muddled if I was lazy.
On that day, as soon as I changed my thoughts and matched them to my innate beliefs, the bunny experience changed too. People in the small crowd all started giving me money to buy a ticket, and eventually, the man running the stall said I had earned the bunny for being so good and gave it to me!
No matter what came, I always thought, 'all of life is a gift Annie, you are blessed.' By choosing my responses I knew I was laying the groundwork for my habitual or 'automatic' thinking and behaviours. I knew I was creating my potentialities simply by making conscious choices about 'my truth.'
I also knew that no matter what I went through, I would always, at some point, be able to see the bigger picture and the value of it. It wasn't a matter of faith for me, it was a matter of 'knowing.'
In this way, although I was an 'invisible' child and received very little attention from my parents, I knew that every experience would bring me ever greater strength. I was being made this way for a reason and I never doubted it. I accepted all of life as having value - no matter how 'hidden' from me that value might be at any point in time.
In fact, I thought being ignored was wonderful because it was teaching me to always put any children of my own first, to always shower them with love and encouragement, and to help them blossom and understand their true self-worth. The lessons of life not only held tremendous value for me, but I knew every single one of them would make me a more self-responsible person.
I knew that by consciously mapping and linking everything I would experience great joy in my personal revelations and connectedness to what scientists call, the field, or the holographic universe.
My grandfather was the deacon of our church, and because of this, I was allowed to start Sunday school a year before I started primary school.
They had a big picture bible which I was allowed to read out to all the other older children and it really confused me.
I had no idea why the book told stories about a wrathful, vengeful and judgemental God, or why they pictured him with a white beard sat on a white cloud. It saddened me greatly that people were missing the opportunities to know the supreme magic of creation and life.
It took me a few weeks to work out that there is just as much value in a limited view, as there is in an expansive and accepting one.
Another example of possibly unusual wisdom: -
My parents divorced when I was 15 and my dad left home. I was heartbroken even though I was so estranged from him in everyday life. I can remember thinking, 'grieve Annie, but only for a short time. Don't damage your body with self-pity.' I was conscious of my pain, but wise to the fact that I shouldn't 'feed' it.
Where all of this awareness came from was always clear to me. We are all born with innate wisdom and 'knowing,' just as much as we are all born with a survival instinct, but most of us don't keep those connections going.
I didn't think there was anything remarkable about the way I was training my brain to think - I thought everybody could do it - and, of course, we can! They key is in realising that the brain is a tool that the mind uses, and I know that when I regained this understanding after my brain injury, I could get to work on finding and fixing what was broken.
All the time I failed to hold this concept, was all the time my brain was driving both me and my rehabilitation rather than 'who I am' being the captain of my ship. Regaining control over the thinking voice in our heads is paramount to our ability to rewire, put the 'self' back in the driving seat, and regain lost skills.
I am far from being an expert on the brain but, as I said above, my feeling was always that this conscious filing effort made it much easier for me to learn. By the age of 11 I was segregated from everyone in my school because I was so far ahead that they, 'had nothing to teach me.'
I spent one full summer term plus an entire school year shut off in a room on my own. I would write about anything that came to mind and I guess this is where I learned to manage being isolated. They wouldn't allow me to have any access to books, not even literature, and I was too young to join a library without the consent of my parents.
The only way I coped psychologically was to again believe everything was happening perfectly and that one day I would know exactly why I had to go through this experience. I intentionally stayed in a happy place in my head, would indulge in daydreams and looking out of the windows studying the way the air moved through the trees and imagining shapes in the clouds.
Most people are surprised when I tell them I have very clear memories from being in my cot and of picking the tufts out of my blanket to create patterns - mostly of daisies. I did the same with the wallpaper, which may account for my cot being moved to the centre of my bedroom and a huge sheet being used like a pillowcase to enfold my blanket. I needed purpose, even at that young age.
One cold, wet day, as my mum lay dying, I was holding her hand waiting for her to wake up. When she did, she smiled at me in a knowing way and said, "There you are; there you my Daisey Baby." With that, her eyes gently closed and she went back to sleep.
When the routes to creativity were taken out of my reach, I started climbing out of my cot. Again, I don't think there is anything remarkable about the clarity of my memories or my awareness beyond my developing brain.
"While the traditional model of psychiatry and psychoanalysis is strictly personalistic and biographical, modern consciousness research has added new levels, realms, and dimensions and shows the human psyche as being essentially commensurate with the whole universe and all of existence."
- Stanislav Grof
Beyond the Brain
I never felt alone; indeed, even from this very early age I was very well aware of being connected. Throughout my childhood, and right up to the morning of July 23rd 2000, I conducted my life from a place of knowing and was frequently called upon, even in the school playground, to share this inner wisdom by others to help them through their emotional or life upheavals . I would just 'know' why things were happening, which insights could be gleaned, and how best to address whatever was choosing to show up.
I knew that you needed to take notice of what life was showing you and that if you didn't 'see' the meaning, then life would repeat itself with similar incidents until you cottoned on and grew as a result. Every single experience we go through is a gift and has meaning.
When we 'surrender' to the greater picture, rather than fighting and denying, life flows and we are always ready in service to ourselves and others. We are walking our destiny rather than the victim of fate and that brings me back to living with TBI where the brain takes over and completely shuts out the mind.
Without the mind, fate takes over because we are no longer able to make conscious choices in the same way. I believe wholly that this is a but a small part of the experience of living with loss of self-awareness after a brain injury.
I will write more about this and will also write about the effects of brain injury on the innate or spiritual self.
At this time of writing, October 2020, I can honestly say that the drive to get 'me' back has been the centre of my focus during my rehabilitation. Despite losing all feelings of connectedness, 'knowing,' and all my experiential memories and beliefs, I am back here today with the soul of who I am, ready and impassioned to help you find you again too.
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