Brain Injury Awareness Month!

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month and to kick off the month the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) is launching a campaign asking if you are aware?

Are you aware that a BRAIN INJURY CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

The impact of a brain injury can be devastating not only to the survivors themselves, but to their family members, caregivers, friends and their community. It can affect every aspect of their life, often resulting in loss of livelihood, isolation, and physical, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Your brain is who you are, it’s your humanity. Just as no two people are alike, no two acquired brain injuries are alike. Survivors will experience the effects of acquired brain injuries in many different ways.

http://www.areyouaware.ca/

areyouaware

After a brain injury a person may experience many of the following changes:

  • difficulties remembering new events, appointments, daily tasks
  • changes to his or her personality
  • frustration over things that used to be easily accomplished which are all of a sudden difficult tasks
  • increase in impulsive behaviours

These changes and many more can be very confusing. There is also a tremendous loss of aspects of their pre-injury life and routine – things that are no longer possible for a person to continue to do. Although on the surface, a person may look exactly the same, his or her brain has changed and this can be frustrating for brain injury survivors to convey to people.

Many people with a brain injury experience seizure activities. We talked about this in our group and most participants are able to manage the frequency of seizures with medication. When a person has a seizure, they are unsafe to drive and for a person who is used to hopping in the car daily and enjoys the experience of driving – this loss of independence is massive.

FOND MEMORIES – A Series by Inder

SONY DSC

I am very fond of driving. It gives me freedom, independence and excitement. I am very comfortable in the car. I’ve always wanted to buy a particular car.

SONY DSC

Last year, I finally bought the car – a Red Convertible.

SONY DSC

Exactly two days later, my Neurologist advised me that I shouldn’t be driving so I respected what the Doctor said and I stopped driving.

SONY DSC

I went through the Drive Again program – and passed. Then the winter came and I decided to park the car in the garage. Then spring came and I took the car out and drove for about a week or so.

SONY DSC

Then I had a seizure and the Doctor told me I shouldn’t be driving and I got a letter from the Ministry advising me to stop driving.

SONY DSC

Within a week, the car went back in the garage and I felt devastated.

SONY DSC

Then I made a decision. I felt that there was no point in keeping the car sitting in the garage, so I told my friend to help me sell my car. So he took the car two days ago.

SONY DSC

So, there’s a saying back home – if you want to do something good tomorrow, do it today. If you want to do something good today, do it now. Whatever happens, happens for the good. In spite of going through a tough last 3-4 years, medically, I met a number of very nice people who are very kind to me that I may not have met otherwise. — Inder

Inder shared his story with our group and the impact of this loss was palpable to everyone in the room. When Inder and I sat down to write this story, he look distant at times, worried, concerned, and at a loss yet the story that was very clear and visible in his mind. At the end of the story, when he sold his car, I had asked him “Is this the end of the story?” After sitting back and reflecting, he was able say “Whatever happens, happens for the good” and he had a big smile on his face as he thought about the people whom he has met due to his brain injury and although the journey is tough and arduous at times, and life gives and takes, survival is victory and reminds us that we are strong and life is a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life

A series by Neil.

All photographs were taken by Fiona. The narrative was written by Neil with the help of Carrie M. who recommended Neil for the group and provides weekly encouragement and support, to help Neil through his week.

Life by Neil

This print shows the connection between family and life. The four corners represent each member of my family (me, mom, dad and brother) and shows how we are all connected to each other.

Life by Neil

 I called this print life because you cannot isolate yourself from anything. Living with an injury, you must live as normal a life as possible You have to stay connected to all things and fit in with the group.

Life 4

Life means love. Loving everything that is possible and not being scared of trying things and fitting in. Caring for the place you are living in.

LIfe by Neil

 We are all connected to each other within nature and our environment.   If you are connected with your family, you can understand their moods and what is needed to help them with their day and showing that you love them.

Life 2

This print came to mind because of the relationship with my brother and how my parents have to interfere as opposed to us all being happy together as a family. This interrelationship within my family impacts my life. When my family is connected and happy, I am happy. –Neil

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Flowers

After a long and dark winter, spring has arrived in Toronto. The flowers have arrived and we are blooming with inspiration from our new group of participants. All photographs below were artfully arranged by Fiona, our new mentor for the group. I officially would like to welcome all new participants to the group and look forward to our time together meditating, creating art, sharing stories and finding meaning.

Mindful Art Workshop - Spring 2014
Mindful Art Workshop – Spring 2014

 

Can't Stop Tomorrow by Fiona
Can’t Stop Tomorrow by Fiona

“I’m thankful for getting the opportunity to meet everyone here, it’s always a pleasure to be able to meet other people who know about brain injury and who are generous enough to share their story. Thankful to the community I have around me, my friends, family, and colleagues. I’m just thankful to be here today.” Fiona

Dedication to Amee
Dedication to Amee

“Thankful to Amee for letting me be here and attend this session and letting me get to know two other very nice people. Also thankful to the god for giving me two legs to stand on and two arms for holding other people’s hands. 2 meals a day and a roof over my head and family and friends. For everything despite the head injury I have, I’m still able to breathe and walk and talk and do many things which millions of other people are not able to do.” Inder

LIfe 5
Life by Neil

“I’m thankful this group is very, very, very relaxing, I like doing the art which I get frustrated over, it was very relaxing this group, this group is a very good group, and I am thankful I joined it. Thank you all to the leaders and the two people I met here. Thank you for such a relaxing and good group.” Neil

Mindful Art at the Holiday Party

We had our first Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS’ (cheers) holiday party (Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto). It was a wonderful night to celebrate this special events with friends and family and our community of persons whose lives have all been shaped by an acquired brain injury.

Mindful Art Display
Mindful Art Display by Amee Le & Dr. Carolyn Lemsky
SONY DSC
Mindful Art Display at the CHIRS Holiday Party 2013
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
Chris and Amanda at the Art Sale
SONY DSC
A proud artist smiling by his art!

Kihelakayo – Keep Going

The theme for this week’s Mindful Art Workshop is Kihelakayo – Keep Going

“A young man asked his Lakota grandfather what the answer was to life’s difficulties. Kihelakayo said the old man – we must keep going.”  Joseph M Marshall III

Keep Going by Amanda Muise
Keep Going by Amanda Muise
“I am thankful for a safe place to express.”
Leaves by Orlando “I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Leaves by Orlando
“I am thankful for this group. I am thankful for friends.”
Mauley by WSM “I am thankful for being alive.”
Mauley by WSM
“I am thankful for being alive.”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne “I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance, I am dancing even with a cane!”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away by Roxanne
“I am thankful for life. I am thankful for my tooth feeling better. I am thankful for my granddaughter coming over to dance. I am dancing even with a cane!”
Five Keys by Chris “I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Five Keys by Chris
“I am thankful for being here and taking this class.”
Acorns by Mickey “I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Acorns by Mickey
“I am thankful for being here with people to have fun with.”
Blanca by Orlando
Blanca by Orlando

Finding Inspiration! Giving to Others

There was a sense of excitement during the first group, combined with nervous anticipation. Participants were eager to get started and were unsure of what to expect. The class started with a deep breathing exercise so that all participants could come together to feel grounded and present. Then I spoke to the class about finding inspiration by giving to ourselves.

This can be an unusual topic, as so often we are giving to others; taking care of ourselves is a foreign concept; it’s like we are speaking an unfamiliar language. As professionals, caregivers, family members, friends, we are socialized to give. We are kind to others and we often feel like our hearts are limitless in the amount of care we give to the people we love.

Then, if we are mindful and pause, we can remind ourselves that, although our hearts are deep and open, our bodies have limits; respecting these limits means finding ways to give back to ourselves,  giving ourselves permission to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our emotions, taking care of the parts of us that connect to meaning, and being kind to ourselves.

This is, we want to keep being kind and giving to others and continue giving; at the same time, we stay mindful and find ways to replenish ourselves. This can be viewed as a cycle of giving so that we are not depleted at the end of the day. We remind ourselves that as we become depleted, we can give less to others. When we give to ourselves, we are in a sense giving to others as well.

But what if this feels selfish”, says a tiny voice? Or, “I don’t know how to do this”, says a louder voice.

Pause and step back; be aware, be mindful without judgment. Hear these thoughts talking to us, give them space to talk, and listen to their messages; this is acceptance. Then what? We may be surprised what comes next. With practice, the thoughts become quieter and the layers peel away as we become more open to ourselves. When we do this, we may be surprised of what we are capable and how deep our hearts truly are.

Through this exercise and by accepting the mindful seed (Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise) the participants in the workshop were able to create these beautiful eraser carvings [click here].

Workshop Participant's Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop Participant’s Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags