My Drive To Get Better!

Introduction:

I have always been a competitive person.  I loved competing when it came to basketball, baseball, bowling, spades or even Connect Four!  I also loved when people would challenge me and tell me that I was not capable of completing a task.  I received the biggest rush playing against good competition and being the underdog.  This is when winning was most gratifying for me!

Personally, I think the main reason I decided to buy the motorcycle was due to knowing it was beyond anything anyone would expect of me.  Here was my ultimate challenge: Learn to ride a motorcycle, despite the many warning signs.  OK…I’ll admit that I previously aspired to be seen riding a motorcycle on Lake Shore Drive during the summertime in Chicago! 

Even though I knew this was my first bike and I did not have a motorcycle driver’s license, I was determined to buy a bike and learn how to ride it.  As a collegiate athlete, I knew practice makes perfect (most times), and I was determined to be just as comfortable on a motorcycle as I was on the basketball court.    And I knew that the key to becoming good was to practice. Even before I bought the bike, I would go to the bike shop every weekend to practice on their motorcycles. Finally, after months of practice, I felt comfortable so I bought a bike on Saturday afternoon, and the next day I sustained a TBI.

I know this was an extra-large piece of humble pie that I had to eat all by myself!  Yeah, I wanted to sulk, cry, and complain about my situation, but honestly, I could not.  It was all my fault! I was warned by family members and friends not to buy the motorcycle, but obviously I knew better!  I always saw myself as one who made the very best effort to win!  Unfortunately, I was not successful at everything, but that did not stop me from trying!

“No matter how good or bad you are, you’re going to lose some and are you’re going to win some. What you think, do, or how you react when you lose is what makes the difference. Your determination is the differential that can convert the impossible to possible and even the other way around. What is impossible for someone is possible for another. It’s a matter of commitment, discipline, and determination. Yes, the ability is also important but then if you are determined to achieve your goals, you can always develop the skill that you miss or lack in.”

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After coming out of a coma, I did not know what brain injury was all about.  I had to figure out through trial and error what worked and did not work on my body post-accident.  It was not until I saw other survivors walking on my brain injury floor, did I believe it was an option for me.  My mindset was that if I had a chance to practice walking, I’d get it again!  Unfortunately, learning how to walk again requires more practice than I expected.  

I think the biggest motivation I received as an inpatient was from a doctor.  After going through a neuro-psychological evaluation, the doctor told me that he did not know if I would work or walk again.  I was so hurt when I heard this…  After hearing this, I was laser focused on doing everything I could do, to accomplish as much as I could!  Just like my motorcycle, I was determined not to let anything stand in the way of my own personal goals!! 

“It is this psychological aspect that makes a person do things that others have stated as impossible. The fact is if you are determined to achieve something – the chances to achieve it are very high. So, possible and impossible is about how you look at things. Whether you Think You Can or you Think You Can’t, either way, you are right because your subconscious works in accordance to make your belief come true.”

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My fire was lit!  I wanted to do exactly what the doctor said I may not do again.   Being the competitor that I am, I KNEW I had to prove him wrong!  It was my plan to walk and go back to work again!  All I needed was motivation from anyone that was willing to give it to me! 

Working through rehab sessions got to be a little on the repetitive side when you are unable to perform as you previously had.  This was when I like to find things to motivate and get the best out of me, as I was relearning these essential movements.  For example, when I was in Day Rehab and becoming comfortable walking, I was assigned to 30 minutes on the Stairmaster.  As I climbed on my machine, I saw Special K on the Stairmaster next to me!  This was when rehab became competitive for me!  Special K, came into Day Rehab walking, while I came into Rehab in a wheelchair.  Based on what I saw her doing in rehab, I thought she was a good challenge because she was doing more than me.   I liked Special K, and while we all have our own challenges, her gait pattern was superior to mine!

“Determination is dependent on only and only one thing, how bad do they want itwhat is your reason behind you doing itwhat is your why? The intensity of the determination for anything is driven by your motivation behind it. So, having clearly stated goals and understanding why do you want to achieve this particular goal at this time is the best way to stay determined. You lose the determination to do something only when the value perspective of it goes down in your head.”

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From my machine, I was able to see her speed, minutes completed, and her resistance level.  We would start our challenge on the same speed and when we needed to push each other, we would either change the speed, or resistance level.  Most times we were competing on the number of floors traveled or the fastest speed we were able to maintain.  Even though there were no trophies to pass out or gifts won, the loser would know when they lost because the winner would always give the other a slick smirk or grin.  This would be the ‘verification’ that the person won that session of Stairmaster Challenge!

Conclusion:

I always believed I would get better after my TBI, but I did not know how much recovery I would experience.  I don’t think any of us know how much we will recover, until we try!  Some of us will set goals that will never be reached, but hopefully we are able to accomplish all goals set.  

I have learned that progress during rehab is different for each survivor.  Some of us may be satisfied walking again, while others won’t be satisfied until they are able to accomplish everything they did pre-injury.  I think it is most important that survivors are involved in their goal setting.  It will allow the survivor to define what is important to them!  Also…there are no bad goals, but some are not attainable.  Be sure you are realistic!  

I encourage everyone to push their bodies to the limit!  We will never know our limits until we push ourselves.  Here is a quick example of something where I have pushed myself.  Before my accident, I was a 214-average bowler.  My goal in rehab was to return to my Sunday afternoon bowling league.  After finishing rehab and relearning basic functions, I was able to return to bowling.  While other bowlers thought that it was awesome that I was bowling (averaging 138), I was more focused on getting back to the point where I previously was.  Anyway, while I am not averaging 214, at the end of the 2020 season, I averaged 208!  I even bowled a personal best score of 298 that year!  This was also in the name of competition!

If you are able to move your limbs, I’d encourage you to keep trying things until your body tells you different.  If you can almost complete a task or activity, I would keep trying until completion or until a limitation stops you.  If you get close, you may want to look at adaptive ways to complete the activity.  For me, completion is completion!  Early in rehab, I didn’t care too much how it looked, I was focused on completion.  I’ve also noticed that the more practice you get, the movement looks and feels better.

Competition is another way to challenge others as well as pushing yourself.  But…Before attempting to do a weight or recreational program, make sure you get the okay from your doctor!  Stay safe and have fun!

“Determination – The Difference between Possible and Impossible Daily-Motivational-Quotes/ | Awesomeazinglife.Com.” Awesomeazing Life, 15 Feb. 2020, http://www.awesomeazinglife.com/2020/02/15/determination-the-difference-between-possible-and-impossible/.

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