You Don’t Look Sick

Has this been said to you? Those of us chronically ill or injured have probably been given this all too common line, “You don’t look sick.” Or how about this one, “Well, you look good!”*

If we look sick, we are sick, if we don’t look sick we aren’t. Right? No!

Most people have five senses; taste, touch, see, smell, and hear. Now, we can mistakenly use our sense of sight to judge someone’s sense of touch.

An injured brain can not be seen. The brain is enclosed by the skull and a protective water layer called dura matter (both of which are damaged on me). Injured brains are felt.

Fatigue can not be seen, it’s felt.

We can’t judge a person’s sense of feeling based on our sense of sight.

This is why invisible illness is so misjudged ending up with the ill feeling very much alone.

I met a lady in my brain injury group whose teenage son suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being struck by a car and then run over by a second car which dragged his body underneath it before stopping. When she arrived at the hospital she told me he looked to her like an alien. His brain was actually visible and he was so beyond recognition, she could only identify him based on the fact that he bit his nails which was the only recogizable part of him. This is probably the worst case of TBI I have ever heard of, and by some miracle, her son survived his brain injury but with many many deficits.

Yet, this is not the norm. TBI is typically an invisible malady. It effects all of life in so many various aspects most of which go unseen to onlookers. TBI is felt. Chronic fatigue is felt. Autoimmune diseases are felt.

We want to be well. We don’t want to wake up every day wondering what we have to do to just barely get by. We don’t want to tell our best friend we can’t receive her visit because we are too weak. We hate missing church. We want to get up, feet hit the ground running and get everything done while having strength and energy to play with our kids and make chocolate cake for dessert.

Not all ilnesses are visible, rather, they are hidden inside the intricate workings of our very fragile bodies that can easily become disfunctional living in this fallen world. While we may not look sick, believe me when I say we are bravely fighting every day and never, ever giving up….. and are courageously smiling and enduring through the pain.

Much love,

Viv 😍

*This post was written a long time ago. I’m no longer frustrated over the way people respond to invisible illness, but I still feel this post holds a few valuable insights worth sharing with others. ~Viv

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Just Say No

One thing I’ve recently learned is that the word “no” is a complete sentence. For some reason in our culture, we feel led to giving others long, drawn out speeches as to why we can’t participate, do something, go somewhere, etc. Our embarrassment over having to decline someone by saying no is underscored by giving immediate excuses highlighted and given in a long speech. We feel like we have to explain. In this sense, our lives become plundered by questions, raised eyebrows, and an overall sense of feeling like we are in the defense zone. We feel bad for saying no. We feel guilty for saying no. We feel embarrassed for saying no.

I know I do.

My mentor recently told me, “no” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to simply say no.

Living with chronic illness or injury requires extra effort to keep up. We wear out easy, things are harder, take longer, and leave us wiped out.

If I push myself or allow others to push me, my brain injury pushes back harder! I have learned out of necessity I need to say no. It’s not a preference, at times it’s a requirement.

If you don’t feel up to going, or up to doing what others ask…….simply say no. If you’ve had your personal space, or your boundary lines crossed, just say no. If it’s against your beliefs or makes you uncomfortable, just say no. Or maybe if you’re like me and you just have nothing left to give, just say no.

We are not obligated to constantly feel like we need to explain. The minute we start giving out reasons as to why we say no, it’s giving others a chance at convincing us to say yes. They will try to overthrow our no, by undermining our reasons and then we feel pressured to change and give in.

Yes, there are times when it’s necessary to give an explanation and in those cases, the person you may need to say no to may need to understand for important reasons. That’s when we must be ready to give our reason(s) tactfully and not allow them to make us feel badly for declining their request.

If we feel like it’s not respectful to simply and tactfully say no……let me ask you this; will others respect your no or try to turn it into their yes? Will a long drawn out explanation with roman numerals and subpoints A and B be respected? If not…..then your no is not being respected and quite possibly neither are you.

Photo taken by my mentor

Much love,

Viv

For prayer requests please visit my page Come Pray With Me and join in prayer with a loving community of believers.

Some Blogging Insights

Start a blog, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Although my experience as a blogger has been mostly positive, I do want to share two hidden discouragements I believe we bloggers are apt to stumble across from time to time. Quite possibly they may bruise us, and leave us feeling unsettled, and can make us question our approach to the whole blogosphere.

1) Judging our writing based on other’s interactions, responses, or likes.

Okay, this one is hard because we feel the need for postive feedback and comments yet that doesn’t mean we are good bloggers because our blog looks like it’s smoking hot after every post with loads of interactions. It may be your likes and followers are high momentarily, but that is a very subjective and can change in a gradual incline or decline. There are excellent blogs out there with tons of great information and writing styles which appear to be more dormant but looks can be deceiving. One of my favorite blogs, jumbledbrain.com, looks very quiet from a blogger’s viewpoint but she has risen to one of the top 30 blogs in the world with thousands of email subscribers. If people sign up for your blog through email because of finding you through internet social media, that is a very good indication your blog offers something they are looking for. Don’t be discouraged if sometimes your posts go mainly unnoticed. There are more highly trafficked days and times for blogging and sometimes just strategic timing can bring the most traffic to your blog. Write from your heart and be you. Keep those posts from going on too long. Sometimes great writers can write lengthy posts and most people just don’t have that kind of time. Put your blinders on, and remember to dig in and stay focused on your true purpose as a blogger. If you wrote your heart out and didn’t receive much feedback, remember, lots of people may read and enjoy your blog but never leave a comment. A lot of us are introverts and like to read and ingest what we read quietly.

2) Being yourself may lead to negative feedback.

Yes, we want feedback, as I mentioned above, but it’s tough when it’s not always postive. As a Christian blogger who bears her heart openly on WordPress, I’ve learned to realize that if I’m transparent, I need to willingly take the heat from others. I am more of a sensitive soul, so I can get a bit worked up when others find fault in me through my writing. Now, I can be safe and write from a strictly objective viewpoint but I believe my subjective, honest writings are more helpful to other people who are hurting and therefore I continue to write being fully aware that my openness may lead to open criticism. Do I need to have thicker skin? Absolutely! I have had to remind myself that although it hurts to receive negative feedback, I truly did bring it upon myself through my openness, so I have chosen to open the door to receiving criticism. It’s my choice to say what I say, so I must choose to live with the consequences too. I can play it safe and close myself off with mainly impersonal writings, but my personal mission as a blogger wouldn’t be as effective so I choose to be real. Since being real may mean being vulnerable to criticism, I definitely need to thicken my skin and look at it as battle wounds for the cause of Christ, knowing that He sees the intentions of my heart: seeking to help, bless, and uplift others who are hurting. Because most people generally like reading posts that they can relate to, I will continue to write from my heart in hopes to be a blessing.

I prayed before writing this post that it would be helpful to another blogger out there who may be new to blogging or facing the same challenges I have faced. I pray God blesses each and every one of you as you seek to write for whatever your blogging mission may be, and that your blogging experience is a deeply blessed and rewarding one.

With much love,

Viv ✍🙏

The Reason I Blog

In the beginning of April 2018, I made the decision to start a blog, so my friends and family would better understand what I was going through physically and so I could gain their support from that understanding and in turn feel less unsupported.

Well, it didn’t work like I thought it would. For starters, I couldn’t get most of them to read my blog or sign up to receive emails!! The response I felt was a bit lack luster and lame.

Now what? Of course my dear parents signed up to receive emails and my best friend Michelle but I already felt supported, loved, and understood by them anyways…..just not everyone else!

One day my mama told me that my blog greatly encouraged her. She went on to say she actually loved my blog and expectantly looked forward to my posts. She began encouraging me to write, write, write and share my heart.

I started to see the bigger picture here: God wanted me to write to give hope, encouragement, and share Him with others.

It wasn’t about me anymore and making people “get” what I’m going through….it was about ministering to others who suffer and bringing glory to God!

My mission was changed.

I began to write for others and in the process I began to know a deeper healing through giving hope to them.

From the beginning, my initial intentions had been selfish and all about me but God changed my approach and gave my suffering a sense of purpose through blogging for others by sharing my hope.

And in the process, I’ve discovered my purpose, received greater healing, and formed deep forever friendships I would have never had if I didn’t have this TBI, and didn’t put one foot forward into the realm of blogging.

Only God can do this! Praise be unto Him! His plan is always perfect and He always knows what we need in order to break out of our shells and emerge as brilliant pearls with a heart’s passion for Him.

Much love,

Viv 🤗

P.S. For my WordPress friends; I plan on having a blog party here soon. This will give you the opportunity to share your blog, passion and mission for blogging…..stay tuned! 😄💙🌎

March: Brain Injury Awareness Month

Check out these few facts that can help make us all more aware of just how prevalent brain injury is in the U.S.

Here are a few statistics I find very interesting regarding brain injury:

1) A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain.

2) Falls are the leading causes of TBI in America.

3) Men are twice as likely to sustain a TBI than women.

4) 90 % percent of concussions do not involve loss of consciousness.

5) Each year, about 2.8 million people are treated for TBI in a United States ER.

6) A concussion is a mild brain injury. The consequences of multiple concussions can be far more dangerous than those of a first time TBI.

7) The area most often injured are the frontal lobes that control thinking and emotional regulation.

8) A blow to one part of the brain can cause damage throughout the whole brain.

9) Blasts are the most common cause of TBIs for veterans fighting in war zones.

Resources: brainline.org, traumaticbraininjury.net

The above statement is an excellent summary of how a brain injury effects the body long term. It also sums up the personal battles I face with TBI daily.

I sketched this picture of the parts of the brain. X marks the spot of my compression in between the frontal and temporal lobes on the left side.

Thanks so much for taking a moment to read this. God bless you and much love.

Viv 💚

The Accident That Took Home My Friend Herm.

On March 7, 2010, my friend, mentor, and neighbor of eight years, Hermione Joy Wommack, was killed by a drunk driver slamming into her SUV head-on at 80 miles per hour. Reports say his blood alcohol levels were 2x over the legal limit and he was driving without a license.

Let me take you back to that day.

On March 6, 2010, I gave birth to my youngest daughter and final baby. I telephoned Herm later that day to tell her the good news and see if she could come take a peek at my new bundle of joy at the hospital. I was greatly looking forward to her visit because she and I had both recently moved miles apart and hadn’t seen each other in months. She told me she could visit the next day since it was Sunday and a bit less hectic for her. I was due to return home Monday, so I assured her Sunday was perfect and couldn’t wait to see her again.

Herm, an Argentinean high school Spanish teacher, had always been a precious friend and neighbor to me. Going through difficult times in the early days of marriage and job loss was made easier by her wisdom, counsel, and prayers. There wasn’t much I didn’t tell Herm and her presence in my life was constant.

There would be times when I would open up my front door to find bags of gifts awaiting me that she cleverly sneaked there. Generosity was always nothing but second nature to Herm.

I vividly remember watching my oldest daughter, who was three at that time, putting on the gorgeous Sunday dress Herm had given her and walking next door to show it off to Herm before church. I can still see Herm’s smile as she knelt down to admire the dress, and my daughter trotting proudly back across the lawn towards me.

Sunday evening March 7, 2010 at around dinner time, Herm came into my hospital room, and immediately took my newest baby in her arms. It was so good to see her again. She and I caught up a bit and I promised her I would come visit her at her new farm they had just bought in the country. I grabbed my digital camera and asked for a picture. She said she looked awful since her grandkids had been with her all day and they’d been gardening together. I assured her she looked great as always and began snapping away.

Herm holding my youngest just moments before her death.

I’m so glad I did. Those were the last pictures ever taken of Herm, for only an hour later she was taken to heaven.

She was on the phone counseling another friend when the drunk driver, a man named Mark Elliot, slammed his vehicle into her Honda SUV.

Her husband later told me she had the presence of mind to tell the police officer his phone number and he arrived at the scene to be with her in her final moments.

The news of Herm’s death hit me very hard. One friend tried to comfort me by telling me that Herm could have been killed before she saw me and then I would have never seen her, visited, and gotten photos of her. For years I felt guilty for asking her to visit me and experienced severe grief and remorse. Knowing Herm, she would have told me to stop.

“STOP CHICA” is what she would have said. Herm never let me wallow!

Whenever I start missing her and feeling remorse, I’m reminded that God is still in control, even in this crazy out-of-control world. He was with Herm in her final moments comforting and ministering to her. He came to her that night with His hands outstretched towards her saying, “Come Home Child”. She was driving along Leesville road that night journeying towards her true Home in heaven.

She was never alone in death. Knowing Herm, she was praying hard as her body breathed it’s last and God answered by giving her peace and everlasting happiness in heaven with Jesus her Lord.

1 Corinthians 2:9 King James Version (KJV)

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

This verse gives me comfort knowing that right now Herm is experiencing delights unimaginable in heaven that await those who love Him.

Several years before her death, Herm shared this scripture verse with me from 2 Samuel 15:26. ‘But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.’ I’ve highlighted that verse in my bible with her name marked beside it. It encourages me to surrender to God’s will for my life and to hand over everything to Him saying, ‘here I am’. Whatever seems good to God is what’s best for me. It may not always look like it at the time but I’m trusting, as my Herm did, that He always knows what’s best. Always.

So many have been killed or severely disabled by drunk drivers. Although my brain injury is not from drunk driving, I’m still heartbroken when I find other TBI survivors (there are many) robbed of their happy lives by the carelessness and selfishness of others. It needs to STOP.

In honor of my friend Herm, please share this post with others.

Herm and my two oldest making Christmas cookies together Christmas 2008.

The article that explains the accident and sentencing of Mark Elliot.

http://www.newsadvance.com/go_dan_river/news/man-pleads-guilty-in-wreck-that-killed-campbell-county-teacher/article_818e9b0a-2f8d-5be4-9dde-d98c7886015e.html

Everyone’s Broken

Last spring when things got hard with my TBI journey, I was crying to my best friend saying, “I feel so broken!” Her response to me was, “Everyone’s broken.”

It’s amazing how God can use the honest words of a friend to wake us up.

Yet, it was not the response I was hoping for just then. I yearned for words of comfort, instead I felt like my brain injury was being undermined. Of course she didn’t mean to hurt me, it was my emotional state of brokenness at that time.

Then God did something in my thought process and heart that only He can do. He showed me that even though what she said to me came at a difficult time in my life, those two words are 100% true and I needed to hear them.

The problem with chronic pain, illness, or severe bodily injuries is that they can make a person extremely self absorbed. It’s impossible to not be so fully caught up in the pain and suffering that scream for our attention 24/7. We can’t help but forget that others we love have issues of brokenness in their lives and are just as broken. They may not be broken physically, yet in some way they’re broken emotionally or spiritually. Everyone’s broken.

In Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, she writes on how Jesus was broken first, so that we can be healed by His brokenness. She writes, ‘Could all brokenness meet in the mystery of Christ’s brokenness and givenness and become a miracle of abundance?’ I’ve often dwelled upon these beautiful words. Everyone’s broken, yet Jesus meets us in our pain and since He overcame all brokenness we are made whole by His broken body on the cross.

I’m so blessed to have a wonderful friend and sister in Christ who understands the big picture here. Her words have stayed with me and kept me from throwing myself a huge pity party or turning into “Debbie Downer” on tougher days of dizziness, nausea, pain, fatigue etc. and staying there. I still struggle with negative thinking, but those two words keep reminding me, that even though there’s a big, sad world of suffering, there’s a bigger God who meets us in our suffering and brokenness and gives us hope to keep fighting.