It’s Just A House

When life happens, an unexpected injury happens and an income is completely all of a sudden gone, it’s quite a shocker and can be devastating. It’s not about all that happening that matters and what you should be focused on, but what you do if that happens is what matters and what you are willing to do. Are you set up financially and successfully to all of a sudden live on one income? Debt? Savings? Short term and long term disability plans through work? Family to fall back on if needed?

We had a nice house on a .29 acre lot with RV parking, little shops, a large fenced yard, tons of parking, one level and updates throughout that we did to it and we loved it. But after my injury and loss of income, we realized what we had and what we needed and didn’t need. One was a mortgage. We had a ton of equity in our home and didn’t owe a ton on it. We sold our dirt bikes, razor, toy hauler and the house was larger than we needed at 1750 square feet. It was more than we needed at this time in our life and by going to one income, more than we wanted to pay. We never wanted to live house poor, ever. So when the loss of my income and my inability to work full time happened, we made financial decisions that served us. We still wanted to own a home, but we still wanted to still be able to travel, have money to spend and wanted to have a savings. Our priorities in life had changed. Life had changed. The house we owned for 3 years was so full of memories from when we drank, to when my life almost ended. So we decided that putting it up for sale was the best decision for us and our future.

We are incredibly lucky to have found a home exactly where we wanted. I have a friend that lives in these houses so I knew I liked them, it was in school district for my kid to ride the bus now that I no longer could drive and it was .8 miles from the house we sold. The most amazing part of our new house is that it’s in my sons school district. I get to see him everyday now. He gets to ride the bus to get to school, so there are no issues with the fact I no longer drive. It works so great for us and his dad, and we are even closer to his dads house now.

We went to NYC in June and low and behold a house came up for sale and in the price range we needed in order to get out of our mortgage. Our house wasn’t even on the market yet, but it was just meant to be. However we were on a flight to NYC when the house went live for sale. Holy crap! So we called a friend who is a realtor and asked her to go look at it for us. She did. She sent us a walk through video and I totally trusted her feedback and thoughts, she’s not only a realtor, but a designer too and I know she knew my style and I liked her style. So while in NYC, the complete opposite side of the US from where we live we had her put an offer in on the house sight unseen by us. It definitely took up a few hours of our vacation each day but was so worth it.

Our offer beat out 2 others and we got the house! Ours wasn’t even on the market yet. The house we were buying, we planned to live in it for a few years and then turn it into a rental. The owners we bought from wanted to be able to rent it back from us until 8/23, and we closed on 7/3. So perfect, it was our first chance to rent it out and give us time to list our current house and give them time to stay in the house until they moved out of state. It just worked out perfectly. We listed our house and someone I knew from Orange Theory where I worked out ended up buying the house with her partner. We loved our house, so we were glad it went to someone I knew. Bonus of that too is they let us keep our RV there for a monthly charge and that is so amazing for us and convenient. It’s one major thing we lost by selling it was our RV parking.

We got our new house 8/23, which happens to be my birthday. We didn’t close on our current house for another month, so we were able to do a few updates in our new house and move slowly which so helped us as my husband works full time and I’m not 100% with a brain injury. We wanted to make our new home truly a home we liked and that we were excited to go to each day. We didn’t over due it knowing it’s a future rental, but we definitely updated it nicely for us and as a future rental. We updated all the appliances, did new counters, put in new pet proof laminate floors, updated around the fireplace, updated all the interior lights and updated the powder bath. It all made me excited about our new house. I love it, and I’m happy with it and especially happy with how this house will be a future rental income for us and that we were able to downsize and be able to lift a huge financial burden now that we live on one income.

Of course it was sad we had to sell our home that we had worked hard for and put a lot of work into. But it was just a house. Things like no mortgage and my son being able to take the bus since I can’t drive anymore way outweighed giving up the house we loved. Priorities changed, life changed, our life changed. I am so lucky to have such an amazing and understanding husband who gave up so much for me and us. The best thing we have done is sell our house and really live way below our means and on one income. We will continue to live this way forever. Not only can we live on one income, we can save money each paycheck to keep building up our savings and cushion. Life’s short. Anything can happen, and you can’t predict when your life will be severely affected by illness or injury. So for the rest of our life we will always live on one income. We will always stay as debt free as we are now. Things don’t matter. And we still own things and life didn’t end for us, we didn’t lose everything. We gave up a lot of our stuff, our life changed and our priorities changed. And we still have fun. We still have a home. That’s important to us. We haven’t bought a home that is our “forever” home yet anyways, but we have started on our goals, one of which is owning 2-3 rental homes. The house we live in will be our first rental home. Next we will buy a house in Bend to spend time at and be able to rent it out when we aren’t there as a vacation rental. That’s our goal this year. Baby steps.

The biggest benefit of all this house stuff is proving right now to be so worth it during a world wide epidemic and so much unknown. So much has changed SO quickly. We are very lucky that thanks to selling our last home and downsizing, that we really don’t have to stress about the what if’s. My husbands job so far is secure, but some at his company have been affected and laid off. I am off work at least until May, but I don’t work for the money and we don’t rely on an income for me thankfully. So through this epidemic, we financially will be ok because we already went through so much of this unknown, financial loss and had to adapt to it and this crisis now with COVID just confirms we have made the right choices, because you never know what’s gonna happen and things can change at any time!

You’re never to busy for what’s important to you- “I’m too busy” is a choice

Before my brain injury, I was busy!! I never stopped, I am a 7 on the enneagram and I am a 7 for sure! I looked back at my calendar in my phone, I have always been a user of my calendar and super organized. I was looking for something old and saw my old calendar schedule and was like holy crap! How did I keep up with myself. I was always doing something. I would do doubles at Orange Theory, which are an hour each, I would work full time, had my sons baseball practices & games, my son’s homework, rode dirt bikes both practices and races, be a wife, be a friend and more! I looked at my schedule and was so tired reading it lol. I understand now why it’s so hard for me to be still now with a brain injury and with depleted injury. I also see a classic 7 characteristic of being so busy that you avoid your own internal problems and life problems. But I was proud of myself that in looking at my crazy schedule before my TBI, that I still made time for who and what was important to me. I’m not ashamed of being a 7 or being a busy body, I am not ashamed of who I am now or who I was before. I think the brain injury just jumbled my brain a lot and made me truly appreciate my life, friends, family and that I don’t have to be busy to be successful.

I have learned now after having my TBI that’s it’s ok to slow down. It’s a must for me. Neuro fatigue is no joke, and often I learn the hard way. Yes I might have not been as good of a friend to those friends who totally matter and deserve my time because I definitely prioritized my life differently. My priority honestly was racing and riding any chance I got. It took me a pretty good smack to my head to realize what really matters and to change my priorities. But you are NEVER too busy for what is truly important to you. And yes my priorities and life changed, it didn’t end. And I still keep busy, I just have different priorities now. Maybe not even different necessarily, I just prioritize my life differently for sure. Like the day I suffered my life changing accident, my son had a baseball game. But it was his dads night, so I missed the game and went to the track to practice instead. My husband went to my sons game with my parents and ex husband. Yet I went to the track. Not because I don’t love my son, but because I prioritized my own need and want over my sons game, and look what happened. Sadly my husband got the worst call he could of got while at my sons game. I don’t dwell on the past, what’s done is done and no regrets or what ifs. I just wish I would my priorities would of been a little different. But lesson learned, the extreme way. The hardest way possible. But that’s how I learn, all the things in life, never from the easy and safe way! So what did I learn about myself, time and life and how has it changed for me? How do I stay busy in my new life, how do I stay content with my life and happy?

I have many ways I keep busy, but nothing is guaranteed and hours vary so I don’t overdue it. I am passionate about connecting with others who are survivors of brain injury, I am passionate about helmet education and safety, trauma prevention and helping others. I am passionate and appreciative of my friends and try to be a great friend, I feel like I am and check in often with my close friends. I keep busy with passion and things that fulfill me.

I volunteer with the OHSU Brain Institute, Think First. This program stands for so much that I believe in. I am volunteering with them as a Voice of Impact and it is a great way to get my speaking skills back in a classroom of youth in middle and high school. I used to teach sex Ed in classrooms just like I will be volunteering in. What better way to gain back my skills of speaking to teens then to tell my story to youth in hopes they can learn from my experiences and talk about helmet safety and how it saved my life.

I meet with other survivors I have met through Instagram or word of mouth. I have met in person and just through messages and video on the phone, but I am always available to other survivors who may want to connect and just chat or others who I may be able to provide resources for. That is what I did for a career before, providing resources and health education and I can still do it but in the brain injury world helping people find crucial resources. Not only is that what I have done in life as a career, but I am now a brain Injury survivor and have real life resources that I have used or heard of that I can connect people too. I have also spoke with people out of state as well and given them resources. As a Certified Health Educator, that is part of what I did before, finding resources for others and I may not be familiar with your state and where you are, but I am familiar with navigating resources, the healthcare system and insurance.

I read. I read a lot. Mostly motivational books, biographies, books about positive mindset and strength through weaknesses. Anything that is real, authentic, motivating and inspiring. Sure I read before my brain injury, but nothing like I do now. One it’s great for my brain, and two I prioritize reading and make the time. Something I definitely didn’t do before my injury. I read a lot about the enneagram also, I am fascinated by it and love learning about it.

I attend therapy at Progressive Rehab, a brain Injury rehabilitation. I love it. I attended last year but my insurance stopped paying and I wasn’t ever able to fully finish and graduate. I went back this year for 2020, because I wanted to finish it, I want to know I did everything I could for my best success and outcomes with a brain injury. I went 2 days a week. I recently ended this though as I had too much going on and I realized that I had learned most of the tools and things I needed so I decided to leave. I still attend for psych though. Mental health is so important, especially for me after a brain injury.

I also restarted vision therapy. I attended up until July 2019 but stopped going because financially it was expensive. I started back last month as I still have a lot of work to do to get my eyes working right as a result of my brain injury. My vision doctor who specializes in Neuro Optometry feels with vision therapy, that a lot of what it happening with my eyes can be fixed. I was also wearing the wrong prescription in my glasses, because before my injury I only needed them to drive at night and see far away. With the new updated glasses and the right prescription, she thinks this will help a lot with my fatigue.

I work! I got a job for Legacy Emanuels Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program. It is an entry level position, I am way overqualified for it but it’s exactly what I needed. And this program provides trauma prevention and helmet safety in the community and it’s perfect for me. I’m so grateful they gave me a chance and hired me. It is the perfect job for getting back into work after my accident. I pick up as many shifts as I want or can. I will average about one 4 hour shift a week which is a lot for me, but it’s perfect for me and I am so happy and satisfied to be able to do what I am doing. I don’t have to work, but I want to work and I am so grateful I found such an amazing place who are working with me. They do so much to support me, help me and work with me and my brain injury like making notecards for trainings I need to know how to do. I’m so grateful for the program and my coworkers.

I’m still a mom and wife. I have a home and I feel like I can’t contribute like I used too. I have a lot of great conversations with my son, I’m here for him and I try to live by example for him. I try to do one thing a day at home to help contribute and help out my husband who works full time, simple things like doing the dishes, a load of laundry, make the bed. Anything that helps in our home and helps him. I’m very lucky that before my injury most our bills were set up on bill pay and still are, so I don’t have to take care of finances. But I do find myself still looking constantly and creating stress even when it’s not needed. That’s definitely a brain injury issue, I’m trying to work on it and stop making stress where we don’t need it. We have made sure we are ok financially and can survive on one income and I don’t need to do that.

I Peloton. I was doing Orange Theory once I was able to workout after my accident, but since we moved, it’s not as convenient to get too. Nothing is. A bus ride is required otherwise a mile walk to the max. The time to do it all went from being about 1.5 hours when I drove or lived closer to the max to 2-2.5 hours. Just taking a shower daily wipes me out. So I had to find alternatives. Two of my best friends have a Peloton, so I decided to get one. For the monthly payment of the bike and the monthly subscription, it is cheaper than my orange theory was and not only can I use the bike, so can my husband and son. So for less than $100 a month and we all 3 can use it and I just go to my garage to use it. It also has strength classes, weights, boot camp, yoga, meditation and more. I love the workouts, classes and instructors and most of all I love the convenience and how much money I save using it. My goal is to someday get back to Orange Theory, but until then this works perfect for me and my life and where I am at and I am SO lucky to be able to do it. Not to mention, now with COVID and gyms being closed and stay at home orders in place, I’m not missing my workouts.

I walk a lot. I no longer drive. I don’t expect rides. I get anywhere I want. Some days I will walk 10 miles. I can do it, so why not. And sometimes I want a coffee, some days I want lunch, some days I want to go to Target. I don’t ever use the excuse that I don’t drive and can’t drive. I get to anywhere I need by walking or public transportation.

I recently started reviewing more on Yelp, I have reviewed in the past, but not consistently. I use Yelp reviews often in daily life but especially when I travel to read reviews on places and decide if I want to try a hotel, dinner out somewhere, excursions and more. So I have really started to do this consistently and oh my I have so much to catch up on. It’s also an amazing brain exercise to remember trips, research my calendar and email, ask my husband or others who were with me and look at pics to refresh my memory. I definitely am open that I have a brain injury, so readers know their information is coming from someone who had a brain injury and lots of memory loss.

So that’s just a snapshot of how I stay busy. It’s crazy to me not to work full time anymore and not be doing motocross and OTF 5-7 days a week anymore and it’s been hard to slow down. But when I look at my schedule now it sometimes overwhelms me. I still am doing too much most of the time, too much for my mental fatigue and well being. But it’s so hard for me to cut back even as much as I did. I find myself taking naps now, because I need them. I find myself saying no to things now, which is not what I would have done before but it’s a must now. I have to pace myself, I have to be conscious of how I am feeling and what I am doing. I have to be the best I can be, because If I am not at my best my family can’t be at their best if I am over here falling apart.

I have to say that with this COVID and isolation and not being able to be out in public and self isolating, it really has been easy, not much different from my norm and a good break for me to realize that in my daily life I was still overdoing it. I have had plenty of time to take naps, take dog walks with my husband, spend lots of time with my son, read so many books I have that needed read, catch up with friends on video chat platforms, play games and just really be forced to have down time. It’s good for me and needed, and although I should be living like I am now in isolation, I don’t and I often overdue it. So it’s a good reminder that I need to slow down! We are so lucky to live in a time to have so many ways to still be social while at home. The biggest lesson I have learned through this COVID and stay at home orders and self isolation, is that it’s okay to stay put. I can do it. I need to do it more even when we don’t have stay at home orders. I am learning to be content. It’s such a struggle for me, but what is hilarious to me is that as a 7 on the enneagram the core desire is to have fun, be satisfied and content. So I just have to perfect my pacing to meet that core desire in a safe and brain friendly way for myself and where I am at in my recovery.

I always have a WWJD in the back of my mind. What would Jenna Do? She’s my amazing speech therapist and she is always in my brain, wether she knows it or not. When I overdue it and don’t pace, I get disappointed in myself, knowing what Jenna would say! She is the best and knows me pretty well just from therapy and seeing my personality and tendencies. But I’m Jessy and I learn the hard way, but eventually I learn:) My goal is to not always learn the hard way and to learn to just be content. But I’m a busy and productive type 7. In reality, I am a busy and productive type 7 with modifications. My modification is my brain injury. I really hope through my next year of recovery I can see a lot of modifications in my type 7. The same but different. Different as in I find the proper amount of productivity, entertaining, fun and business that works best for me as a 7 with a TBI.

What I Learned This Week

The CoronaVirus freak out has been real. The virus is also real. So you should be concerned and take it seriously. I wasn’t worried. I didn’t take it serious at first. But just in a week holy crap, it’s spread so much and is impacting so many.

I just have a traumatic brain injury. I had vacation planned and was pretty set on going. But my friend, who is a doctor and who specializes in traumatic brain injuries sent me a text Monday after reading my Blog Post from Saturday. She was concerned. I heard her. I trust her. But of course being me, not enough to just cancel due to my own stubbornness and not realizing much of what my husband would tell me were his concerns as well and how much he agreed with her.

My friend asked me to please reconsider. So I then sent a message to my Physiatrist who follows my care and asked her, I did not tell her what my friend had said. My doctor flat out told me no. Not a good idea. Not only could I be a carrier and not know it, but I would get to another place that i assumed was out of the country, well technically a US Virgin Island, that does not have the same technology we have here as far as respirators and healthcare. She urged me not to go. Looking back now to just less than a week ago this situation has really increased. We would have been out of the state and it wouldn’t have been the best choice. This is a huge pandemic, not to mention because of people’s fear, hospitals are now without needed personal protective equipment they need and must have like gloves, masks, gowns and more. We definitely could of got stuck far from home and at this point in our life we don’t have the financial resources to spend extended time away from home and work for my husband.

So we made the decision not to go. We super looked forward to this. The last 2 years have been hard, life changing and at times, crap. 2020 was supposed to be different, but so far nope. But it’s not because of choices we have made or things we have done, there is a worldwide outbreak that wasn’t anticipated and we couldn’t have done anything about it. But it’s ok. We can go another time. We can stay home and not add to the problem of traveling and spreading COVID. And my husband wasn’t super sure about going either but didn’t want to tell me. He reminded me that less than 2 years ago I was on a breathing machine, unable to breathe on my own for a week. He reminded me I got pneumonia twice as well. He reminded me that I have asthma which is a chronic health condition.

Wow! I didn’t think of ANY of that. I just had a TBI and some brain bleeds and broken jaw. I’m fine now. What do I have to worry about? That’s the thing, I just have a TBI. My memory is definitely not there for all that happened to me less than 2 years ago. I honestly didn’t think I was at risk for this virus and if I got it, no big deal, I would fight it off easy. But I heard concerns from 2 professionals, not getting their info from the media and fear based. I heard concerns from my husband who watched a respirator breathe for me for a week when I could not breathe on my own.

If you know me, you know me. You know it’s hard for me to just listen to people, especially when I don’t feel they are completely valid in their concerns. But when 2 medical professionals advise you not to go and then you hear your husbands concerns, you rethink and do what’s best for you. I heard my friend, a busy professional who knows me and had the balls to send me a long text asking me to reconsider. Luckily since TBI, I don’t book anything without buying cancellation insurance so we will be good and once all this COVID is past us we will plan a make up trip.

As I have learned in the past almost 2 years, nothing is for certain. Life is unfair. Life is unexpected. You just have to be prepared for anything to happen and make the best of it. So we have. My husband will work half days from our beach home, my son will come with us since school is canceled and we will enjoy a week of vacation on the beautiful Oregon Coast. Not a horrible alternative to St Thomas. Things could definitely be worst. And I know I am not flying to another country risking spreading COVID if I have it. All unnecessary travel is not advised and this trip fits in that category.

As we are relaxing at the beach, at our family beach home, we are enjoying a needed vacation and staycation. Not having to leave, practicing our social distancing and enjoying our time together as a family. My husband is working from the beach, so not using up his vacation time and he can’t go into work anyways since he was exposed to COVID since my sons school had a positive case. He also found out if we went to St Thomas, he would have to work from home for 2 weeks when we got back and be quarantined per his employer. He’s already had to work from home a ton because of my sons confirmed case at his school. But this is where we are grateful for him having the ability to be able to work from home, especially since he is our sole provider and I only work a couple hours a week, but my work is shut down since we do public classes. I work in healthcare, but I work for a program that provides health and safety classes for the courts and helmet clinics. Not necessary things during this time. Our events are actually not allowed right now.

By not going, we also don’t keep spreading the COVID if we do have it and don’t know it to a place that as of last week didn’t have any cases. We very likely could be carriers and by not going is one way to stop spreading this pandemic. It is hurting people far and wide, loss of income, loss of business, so much loss for so many industries and personally for people. So the best thing we can do is stay home, attempt to not spread it, hunker down with our immediate family and practice social isolation. Luckily for me through my traumatic brain injury journey this is something I have become good at. Between the loss of driving, loss of people calling to do things, my loss of energy and just the loss of the normal life I had, social isolation is not a foreign life to me. I can read, do puzzles, do things that are good for my brain like games, crossword, journaling and more.

So I don’t ask why this happened to me, I don’t think about all the things that keep going wrong. But I do look at it as how this happened for me. What are the positive take always from this? The feeling safe and not putting myself more at risk, the extra family time with my husband and son, the time to read some of the many books I still have to read, the time to work on future blog posts, long walks on the beach with our dogs, peloton when we return home this weekend and just time to relax. It’s not St Thomas, but I also won’t be coming back from a vacation totally spent and needing a vacation from a vacation which is my new norm with my fatigue and brain injury.

And also, because of the fact this pandemic made people freak out and hoard things like gloves, face masks, toilet paper and PPE gear hospital workers must have to keep safe, please consider donating to your local hospital as they are now short of items that protect them and that they need if you happen to have anything or work for a dentist or vet that does. If you are that concerned about COVID and bought masks and gloves, give them to your local hospitals who truly needs them and stay home otherwise. That’s the best thing you can do. And hoarding toilet paper really affects all of us who weren’t hoarding it and now are legit out of it. We can’t find it anywhere to buy! But some people have multiple large packs just in case…just in case for the zombie apocalypse I guess. Be smart, be kind, think of others and don’t go out because you feel the need too. Let’s be kind and not do unnecessary things right now. Check on your friends, your elders, FaceTime or call friends and family and keep social, just from a distance. This epidemic is causing so much loss, lives, jobs, sanity and normality. But this is where brain injury prepared me, it helped me learn to be ok with being at home, not being super social and not always going somewhere. Being content with just being alone. So there’s one benefit of going though a brain injury, it made me realize what’s truly important and what’s not important and how to keep busy and socially isolated.

Come on people, let’s care about others and flatten the curve and let’s isolate! Even going outside to the track or to the woods with friends may be outside but you are still putting yourself and others at risk and not helping flatten the curve. Socially isolate and distance now so it doesn’t get to the point where we are forced to be at home!! Now is not the time for fun beach trips either, yes we went to the beach. To our own private vacation home and we did not go out except to find toilet paper and help the local privately owned business we bought from. Besides that we didn’t see people and come in contact with people. Large groups of people on the river or at the track is not socially isolating! Governor Brown is ordering people to stay home!!! Social distancing saves lives. Don’t only think of yourself. If this was before my brain injury, I most likely would of been one of the people not staying at home! Sadly, I can admit that and it’s beyond frustrating to see happening so much. There are so many people, so many in my family, myself included and so many elderly and others who are immunocompromised like my dad and some of my best friends, that we can’t risk getting this! #staythefuckhome is now my favorite new hashtag!

Brain Injury Podcasts- Share Your Story

Podcasts and brain injury specific ones are great as a survivor and even for non survivors to listen to and learn from. Check out the 3 below I have been able to share my story on. There are plenty of other great ones too that I will post.

I was on a new podcast this week sharing my story with 2 brain injury survivors. Check it out

https://anchor.fm/maddi-and-tawnie-niebanck-and-golic7/episodes/Our-First-Guest-interview-with-a-Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Survivor-Jessy-ebmn75

I was also on this podcast with my husband sharing our story

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/a-battle-within/id1455132962?i=1000463862327

And the first podcast I was on about a year into my TBI Journey

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/happie-heads/id1435110483?i=1000437000891

These are other great podcasts and resources I suggest that I haven’t been on but regularly listen to. Knowledge is power.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/and-then-it-hit-me-podcast/id1473278648

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/no-brainer/id1499918935

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-neuronerds/id1353300253

If you have some other Brain Injury podcasts you suggest, please share them with me and comment:)

Where is your information coming from?

This goes for brain injury, corono Virus, parenting, research, when your sick and want more info, travel and more. Is what you are looking at and basing your decisions off of from a credible source? Or did you see it on the news, an ad or hear it from some person?

Being a certified health educator, a big part of my training was being able to determine what research, what educational materials and what I am looking for to educate patients and others was from a credible source and also backed by research. I have seen this first hand with family members and people who love the news and believe everything they see. As well as with people who truly believe what they think or heard is how it is and real. Not based by anything that had credibility, but based off opinions and bias. I am seeing this SO much in the brain injury community, and seeing it even more with the new CoronaVirus outbreak. I have been told my son should not go to school because there was a confirmed case at his school, I was also told we should not be traveling next week due to the virus…been told by people watching the news and buying into the fear crap that is being spread around.

I have email updates to my email from the CDC and Oregon Health Authority because those are two credible sources I like to get my information from. I don’t watch the news. I mean I did turn on the TV and found out politicians at this point can save you from the CoronaVirus. 🤦🏼‍♀️

I have checked our travel destination and will continue to do so. Airlines are taking this seriously, this is affecting the travel industry. Because people are buying what people are selling and saying. There are no confined cases where we are going. But I was just at my sons school and there was a confirmed case there. I also work in a hospital. So should I stay home, stock up on toilet paper and not leave my house while this virus is around?

I have noticed in the Instagram world, everyone is a coach! This is my blog so I will post my soap box. I find it fascinating how many health coaches there are. What qualifies you to be a coach? What online course did you pay thousands of dollars to attend to be a certified health coach? My question is always what are your true qualifications to coach and navigate someone in whatever you are selling? Key word: selling! I guess if you get enough people to sign up and a big enough following on Instagram then you look credible to people just scrolling and searching for whatever you are selling especially if it’s something they need help with. But think about what qualifies someone to do something and someone you are investing your money in. Some do have legit experience and qualifications, some do not. Sure experience dealing and living with a brain injury is a great qualification, but what if much of who you partner with, refer to and believe in is not something that has a lot of evidence basis? But would you know that? Anyone can claim to be a health coach and help with nutrition, but be careful here. When looking for stuff like this, it is important to find someone who is actually a registered dietician, RD. They have had years of training in nutrition.

This has come up a lot in the Traumatic Brain Injury field I am noticing. And yes I paid $100 for one course that was 6 weeks long, 1 hour each time. The person has a mild Traumatic Brain Injury, large following, so why not learn how to advocate for myself and more. But honestly it was a waste of money. I didn’t learn anything new. But lesson learned, normally I would have know better but I will use the excuse of brain injury on this one! I know how to advocate for myself and others. I know the healthcare system, insurance and resources well. I am a traumatic brain survivor who thought this person and course was legit and would help me. I didn’t do my research enough. It was not worth the money, at least not for me. Maybe for some, but definitely not for me with where I am at. I am already advocating for myself, for others, assisting others in finding resources in their area. I am finding lots of resources, I am working, I am finding opportunities in my community for opportunities and have connected with lots of people and also helped connect others to brain injury resources both in my community and outside my community. It baffles me that people will pay people to be their brain injury specialist, yet that specialist doesn’t know where the resources are or how to find them. I have been able to connect people to resources, navigate their insurance and more. I know these are all legit, I am lucky to have found them and it took me advocating for myself to get into some of them. I’m not doing it for a fee or a charge, I am not considering myself a TBI specialist or coach. I am Jessy, a brain injury survivor who has 14 years of experience in the medical field in ER, Care Management and discharge planning, as a health educator, patient navigator for Medicaid and all around have a lot of knowledge and good resources and if I don’t have them, I can find them and credible ones. I do this because it is truly my passion, I don’t need to start a business doing this. I am doing this for community, out of the kindness of my heart and to help others in something that has been difficult myself despite having a great background, experience and knowledge and I don’t expect anything in return. Yes I hope to make a career out of this and doing this someday, who knows maybe one of the places I work with or one of my providers will see all I do and my skill and create a position for me. But right now, where I am and what I deal with personally in my own recovery, there is no way I can extend myself more than I already do.

I just want to urge you to make the best decisions and choices for you. I want you to be aware of where you are getting your information and to really think about credible information. The right information. And if you ever need help in doing this, I am always here to help. Just because I know how hard it is to navigate the healthcare system and thankfully this knowledge has helped me so much through my recovery and I am always here to help others. Just to help. Educate. Inform. Really be aware of what people are selling too. The course I took was very much promoting providers who are not yet evidenced based. Make the best decisions for you and your family. Don’t buy in to the fear of media and the hype. This epidemic is real. Some of us are at serious risk. Take care of each other, practice your social distancing and check on those you know who may be at a higher risk of getting a virus like this. Have compassion.

Some credible sites, this is not an extensive list but you get the idea. Anything .com is not guaranteed credible. I mean look this blog is a .com and I could be claiming to be a TBI Coach and ask for payment for my services. But I’m not. I am a certified health educator through NCHES. This took years of college, verified experience and a national exam and continuing education each year.

And I am not discrediting people with serious immunocompromised health factors. I am plainly stating how I feel and how people are coming at me with inaccurate information thanks to the news.

And please people, wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, cover your coughs. Look up your public health agency for your state, county and city you are in for disease and health related info in your area.

Update: we have canceled our trip. My best friend who is a doctor strongly encouraged it and I asked my doctor who also strongly encouraged it. Two people who know their facts and I respect it and we have taken it into consideration and will go another time. For our week of vacation we will go hide out at the beach house:) I didn’t think about less than 2 years ago I had respiratory failure, had a machine breathing for me and was unable to breath on my own. To top that, I have asthma anyway. So technically I am in the high risk category. But it’s don’t remember all that and think about it but glad I have some caring people in my life who worry about me and educate me.

https://www.cdc.gov

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/pages/index.aspx

https://www.hhs.gov

https://www.biausa.org

https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/Pages/index.aspx

https://multco.us/health

Corono up to date info from CDC that I follow daily for our upcoming trip and accurate info:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/locations-confirmed-cases.html#map

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/usvirgin-islands?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001

Getting Uncomfortable With Purpose

This month is Brain Injury Awareness month. For this month I am posting on my Instagram stories someone who has been affected by brain injury daily. We get a month where awareness and brain injury is talked about and acknowledged, but living with a brain injury is 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. But i appreciate there is one month dedicated to the awareness of something that affects so many. Check out my Instagram jessymunch82617 to see the highlight bubble to see all of the people affected by brain injury and TBI just from my Instagram connections. It’s definitely not everyone, just a few of my followers that I could remember, all whom are affected by brain injury. Someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds in the USA (BIAA). It can be any of us, our friends, family, kiddos, all sizes all shapes. Brain Injury doesn’t discriminate and it’s so crucial to be aware and in the know. Brain injury is not just TBI. Educate yourself, others and spread awareness. 3/1 is the beginning of the month and when Brain Injury Awareness Month began, I posted about and this week I will post one of the faces of TBI and brain injury, my friend Johnny.

I will admit something and I’m super ashamed of it and now that I myself have suffered a TBI, it makes me sick. Our friend Johnny, 5 years ago this April suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. I remember when it happened, I can’t remember it clearly now but I remember it happened. He was our friend. We weren’t super close but when we saw him out we definitely were friends and would catch up. He is a great guy and he loved 🥓 bacon. I knew he got a severe TBI and but I have no excuse, and I don’t know why I have been such a shitty friend. He didn’t deserve that and doesn’t.

After I got my Traumatic Brain Injury, I realized how so many “friends” stop calling and stop coming around. And I got extremely lucky with mine, Johnny didn’t. He lives in a nursing home and can’t communicate with words and definitely did not have the same outcome I did. It really has weighed heavy on me and my heart. Although we weren’t super close, how did I never take the time to go see him?? I am sure I was “too busy” just like most people in life. Too busy having a date night with my husband, too busy riding motocross, too busy going to happy hour or the bar when I drank, too busy going shopping, traveling, too busy hanging with friends. Too busy doing all the things in life I was SO lucky to be doing, and not taking time to see someone who doesn’t get the chance to live a life like I do and do all those things. Too busy to take the time to see a friend. How fucked up is that. Since now that I had a life changing accident and TBI, I really have thought about priorities, time, things that are and are not important and put value into my life. I get one, I want to make the best of it.

I went to see Johnny on January 16th, 2020. The first time I have seen him since his accident. I get it, many people probably don’t go see him because it’s uncomfortable, they don’t know how to act, what to do, it’s fucking sad. I felt all those things, but then I thought how does Johnny feel! I’m sure living the way he is living is not fun, comfortable, he can’t say anything to you, seeing someone like me I’m sure is sad and makes him angry in some way. Because look at me, I was able to commute to Gresham, I’m able to talk. But it also was probably so amazing for him to see a familiar face.

When I walked into his room, I first said “Hi Johnny, I’m Jessy. Is it ok for me to visit you?” He blinked his eyes, which I thought meant yes and asked the nurse and that is his way of communicating yes. I then asked him if he remembered me, he blinked yes. I told him how nice it is to see him, how I am so sorry for never coming to visit. I was definitely getting choked up, mostly because I felt so horrible for saying sorry I never visited. I told him that I had a traumatic brain Injury last year and it really taught me how people abandon you in life and that it has been my goal to see him since last summer when I thought about him and living with a traumatic brain injury.

I made small talk, I know he is a huge Raiders fan, so I had asked my husband about Raider facts to be able to talk to him about and share with him. I told him that Chris and I had gotten married. I told him I would be back to visit him and with Chris if it was ok with him and he blinked yes. I left him an Oregon Ducks blanket and Ducks stuffed animal on the chair, he loved the Ducks and I told him how they had just won the rose bowl.

I left his room and stopped at the sign out desk. I was crying, I can’t control my emotions now. But I did a good job at not crying in front of Johnny. But it was all over as I left the room. I made the receptionist start crying. I had unbelievable emotions running through me. The why him, why me, why did I get so lucky and not him. It was way more than I had anticipated as a TBI survivor going to see someone I know who’s a TBI survivor that had a way different outcome than me. It was real. It was in my face. It was hard. But I am SO glad I did it. Johnny deserved a visit, I know how lucky I am, but being with Johnny really helped me and really put into perspective so many things. Daily I realize how lucky I am, I don’t take it for granted either. So many things I do on a day to day basis, I do because I can and I think about how lucky I am to be able to do it because so many others who suffer from a brain injury aren’t so lucky. I practice gratitude daily, and so often part of my gratitude is being alive, being who I am, being able to have a bad day, being grateful for my bad days, grateful for taking the bus, grateful for being able to work, walk, talk. Every day! It’s how I start every single day, writing 5 things I am grateful for.

I never once pretended to understand what he is going through. We may have the same brain Injury, but it’s not the same. No two TBIs are the same. I also never thought how hard that visit would be for me, or how humbling and real it would be. It brought up a ton of emotions in me. Why did I get so dam lucky and he didn’t?? I was doing what I loved, he fell off a cliff while camping trying to save someone. Like why did I get so lucky and he didn’t? It was hard. It was so fucking hard. I said goodbye and told him I would see him next month. My goal is to visit Johnny once a month for all of 2020. This month, February I will go back with my husband. He will be able to drive and save me from the 2 hour commute on the bus and max one way to go see him. ONE WAY! So 4 hours of my day, but it’s worth it. Johnny deserves it. If it was me laying there, I would hope people would do it for me. But I know the truth, people live 2 miles from me or 20 minutes away and can’t find the time or don’t take the time to come visit me and we can have a full on conversation. I understand for some I may be a sad realization of what can happen since many of my friends ride dirt bikes and that’s how I got a TBI. But I don’t care if it’s a sad realization of what can happen, you would also see a great example of how someone overcomes hard things in life. Not to mention I’m still the same me, a little different but mostly the same. So maybe they really just didn’t like me before and that’s ok. We have figured out who are true friends are and we are ok with it.

My 2020 goal is to see Johnny once a month. He deserves that. He is worth that. It feels so good to be able to do that. It felt so good to see him no matter how hard it was, the way I felt after seeing him was so worth it. I took the time to take time for someone else. Life’s busy, I’m busy, but you’re only as busy as you make yourself. There’s always time to do what’s important to you. Seeing Johnny is important to me. He is important to me. Johnny didn’t ask for this. He didn’t ask to be in the position he is in. He didn’t ask for people to stop showing up. He doesn’t deserve that. So just think about your too busy’s in life. Are you really too busy or are you just uncomfortable? Are your priorities not aligned right? You are never too busy in life. You just have to reorganize your priorities and what’s important.

If you are reading this and know Johnny, or someone like Johnny think about how uncomfortable it is for them to live like this. I get it might be uncomfortable to see him and visit him, but I am sure it’s just as uncomfortable to him not being able to speak with you and shoot the shit with ya. Get uncomfortable, do something good for a friend, do unto others as you would want them to do for you. Anybody can end up like Johnny, TBIs happen all the time in car wrecks. A normal task you probably do often. Just put yourself in his shoes, if this happened to you would you want your friends to still be there?

Brain Safety Starts with YOU – Brain Injury Awareness Month – March 2020

Did you know March 1st begins brain injury awareness month? Me either. That is until it became something that changed my life and truly affected me and my life. Because of this, I want to spread the word and educate the world on it. Seems kind of silly since I am a Certified Health Educator and this was my life before, but I wasn’t as focused in the brain Injury world. I mean I worked with stroke patients at times, but it goes to show all that education and experience has nothing on actually being a brain Injury survivor. But that’s what I got from this brain injury, I mean yes I got a brain injury, but I got lucky and it didn’t ruin my life it just changed it a lot and also really changed what My passion is and my goal for the future with my degrees to put my time into the world of brain injury. I have to toot my own horn here too and say that realizing this has sparked me to make things happen and I started with a volunteer opportunity with OHSU Think first a brain injury prevention program and got a job with Emanuels Trauma Nurses Talk Tough prevention program. It may be entry level, but it’s what I needed for me for now and good things can come out of it.

To promote brain Injury awareness I do many different things. I share publicly about my brain injury and journey on Instagram. I show all the things good and bad and I connect with other TBI survivors and brain injury survivors to create community, to be someone people can connect to who understands a bit what they are going through. I connect with people from all different severity’s and outcomes of brain injury, I definitely try to be supportive and positive and help others see the positives in a hard ass situation.

I meet with brain injury survivors in real life and when I travel. I have had lunch with a Stroke survivor to develop friendship and community for something that can truly make you feel isolated. I have provided lots of resources and connected people to care in their community. I was very proficient at that before my injury and worked for Oregon Medicaid doing that, navigating the healthcare system for patients and providing health education. I can’t work full time now, but I can provide resources on my down time and provide community.

I work for a local Trauma Program and we do trauma prevention activity’s like distracted driver classes, victim impact panels, share the road safety classes, fall prevention and helmet clinics. All of these things that many people come to the class court ordered, can cause a brain injury. To yourself or someone else. So many TBIs are from car accidents. I am starting entry level because that’s what I need right now, but I am working for a program that I fully believe in and that I think is so important in our community.

I volunteer at OHSU Thinkfirst program as a Voice Of Impact. I speak in front of middle school and elementary school students being a voice of impact from a brain and spinal cord injury. I tell my story. I love it, I think it’s important and it’s closely related to what I used to do for a living as a health educator so it’s a good way to gain back skills I had pre brain injury.

I started a blog recently! This blog you’re reading. To share my story, my experiences and all things is life I have learned from. I want to create awareness about so many things I have learned from, but especially about brain injury. I somehow got extremely lucky through my back injury, concussions, traumatic brain injury, poor choices and more so I want to share with the world how I learned from it all and what I learned from it. It’s so important to me.

Living with a brain injury is no joke. Yes I look fine. And yes I got extremely lucky. But daily I struggle with so many things, so many things that I once took for granted. Simple things like being able to drive to go get a coffee, just being able to drive to go to the doctor, take my son to school, go to work and simple things like having the energy to take a shower or do my hair. Taking a shower requires me to sit for 30-60 minutes afterwards to rest. I rarely spend my energy to do my hair. When I do, then I don’t wash it for days and use dry shampoo. I struggle with my words, speech, knowing what to say. I struggle with my vision, even with therapy and new glasses I have vision problems and feel dizzy daily. I can’t work full time, so financially we have most definitely struggled. We currently are going back into debt after paying off all our credit cards because it cost me $200 every time I have vision therapy and $500-$600 a day for therapy for OT, PT and SLP. I pay out of pocket until I meet my $3500 deductible then it’s covered at 80%. And yes we still travel and still live our life which some won’t agree with, but we are paying all our bills and making life work, but taking time for ourselves and our family is a priority. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and we learned that, so we aren’t going to do nothing just to pay all our medical bills. We will just add them to our monthly bills. This week I will try to work 2 four hour shifts, two different days this week plus go to OT, PT and SLP 2 days this week, vision therapy one day and my sons school appointment as well. Because this is life. I will note how I feel and trying to work 2 four hour shifts might not happen again if it’s too much. Ya it’s only a 4 hour shift, but it takes 1.5-2 hours to get there one way and there is a lot of stimulation that it takes to do that. You are hearing things, seeing things and walking and all that takes a toll on my brain and energy. It also cost me money to take public transportation. A four hour shift turns into 7 hours with transportation. My husband will pick me up, but it’s at 9-10pm and he gets home from work at 4pm, my work is next to his work. So on days I work he drives over a 100 miles in order to go to work himself plus pick me up. But he does it to make it so I get home sooner and safely. And no I don’t have to work, but I want to work, it’s important to me and it helps me learn normal things to get back into the world. It also helps keep my mind sound and to not get depressed, it gives me a purpose. I still have a weak left side from stroke like symptoms. Sometimes when I want to do something, put something somewhere I physically can’t. I will know what I want to do, where I want to put something but physically can’t do it. Brain connections. The brain is fascinating. I no longer can do homework with my son and help him. I don’t understand it. So his father has to come take him to help him with homework. I’m sure there are so many more things I struggle with daily. But this is just a bit of it. Brain Injury changed our lives, but we are so grateful I still have life.

My memory was most affected. I lost most my short term memory. I don’t remember our wedding. Thank gosh we had a wedding video and pictures, I have been able to relive a lot of our wedding memories with my husband. From May-January each day I woke up daily not remembering the day before like the movie 50 first dates. It’s still not great, so I use a ton of tools learned in therapy for memory. Like using my phone calendar, a regular calendar, journaling every day and using shared google docs with my husband to remember where things are in our home. My memory is so bad, but I have so many tools that I use that support my memory and it is actually amazing since I use those tools to support my memory. Pictures also help jog my memory. My long term memory is iffy. That’s a big part of doing this blog, it helps me remember things and If not ask those who know to help me recreate the memories. I am lucky I was pretty organized before Injury and I have found journals and calendars from pre injury that I had and can look back on to help me remember.

From my experience with having a Traumatic Brain Injury, I have found a new purpose in my life. I am so grateful it lined up well with what I spent years studying in college, doing and that my profession and now purpose are so aligned. My goal is to take my life that I was given a second chance to live and make the best of it and promote brain injury awareness. It can happen to any of us, I am lucky in that mine was caused from doing what I loved. But so many aren’t as lucky and are doing simple, every day activities like driving, walking down the stairs, or they are a victim of violence when their TBI happened. I’m not angry this happened. Yes it sucks, but I’m alive and my goal is to share with the world about brain injury awareness. Below is all information on what a brain injury is from the BIAA, I copy and pasted it for you to read. I did not write what is below, but keep reading to learn more. I appreciate any comments if this was helpful, if you learned anything new or have a new awareness of Brain Injury month and the why. Thank you for reading.

What is a brain injury? Here is some information from the Brain Injury Association website @ https://www.biausa.org/public-affairs/public-awareness/news/biaa-celebrates-brain-injury-awareness-month

Vienna, Va. – Every March, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) leads the nation in recognizing Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge and support the millions of Americans affected by brain injury. The theme for this year’s awareness campaign is Change Your Mind.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is any injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. ABIs – from trauma, stroke, infectious diseases, and brain tumors – are a serious public health issue in the United States, where someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds. According to available data, more than 5.3 million Americans live with brain injury-related disabilities at a cost exceeding $82 billion annually.

“For many, brain injury evolves into a chronic health condition that changes who they are and how they interact with the world,” offered Susan H. Connors, BIAA’s president and chief executive officer. “Raising awareness of the impact of brain injury and making sure people have access to the support they need is essential – not only in March, but throughout the year.”

The Change Your Mind campaign provides a platform for changing common misconceptions about brain injury, raising awareness about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of individuals who are injured, and offers tools to help advocate for access to care after brain injury. Information about Brain Injury Awareness Month, including educational material and downloadable collateral, is available at www.biausa.org/changeyourmind.

Individuals in need of information, resources, and support after brain injury may speak with a brain injury expert by contacting BIAA’s National Brain Injury Information Center (NBIIC) at 1-800-444-6443.

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About the Brain Injury Association of America:

The Brain Injury Association of America is the country’s oldest and largest nationwide brain injury advocacy organization. Our mission is to advance awareness, research, treatment, and education and to improve the quality of life for all people affected by brain injury. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness and understanding of brain injury.