Letter From Your Brain written by Stephanie
Below is the oft quoted poem, A Letter from Your Brain. Stephanie was one of my first online brain injury connections and her words ring as clearly today as they did in 1996 when we first published this poem:
by Stephanie St. Claire
I’m glad to see that you are awake. This is your brain talking. I had to find some way to communicate with you. I feel like I barely survived World War Three and am still not quite all in one piece. That is why I need you. I need you to take care of me.
As time passes and you and I feel better, people, even doctors, will tell you that we are fine:
“It’s time to get on with life.”
That sounds good to me and probably even better to you. But before you go rushing back out into that big wide world, I need you to listen to me, really listen. Don’t shut me out. Don’t tune me out. When I’m getting into trouble I’ll need your help more than I ever have before.
I know that you want to believe that we are going to be the same. I’ll do my best to make that happen. The problem is that too many people in our situation get impatient and try to rush the healing process; or when their brains can’t fully recover they deny it and, instead of adapting, they force their brains to function in ways they are no longer able too. Some people even push their brains until they seize, and worse.
I’m scared. I’m afraid that you will do that to me. If you don’t accept me I am lost. We both will be lost.
How can I tell you how much I need you now? I need you to accept me as I am today – not for what I used to be – or what I might be in the future. So many people are so busy looking at what their brains used to do (as if past accomplishments were a magical yardstick to measure present success or failures) that they fail to see how far our brains have come. It’s as if there is shame, or guilt, in being injured. Silly, huh?
Please don’t be embarrassed or feel guilt or shame, because of me. We are okay. We have made it this far. If you work with me we can make it even further. I can’t say how far. I won’t make any false promises. I can only promise you this: that I will do my best.
What I need you to do is this – Stop and listen to me. I need this because neither of us knows how badly I’ve been hurt (things are still a little foggy for me), or how much I will recover, or how quickly, please go s-l-o-w-l-y when you start back trying to resume your life. If I give you a headache, or make you sick to your stomach, or make you unusually irritable, or confused, or disoriented, or afraid, or make you feel that you are overdoing it, I’m trying to get your attention in the only way I can.
I get exhausted easily and cannot succeed when overworked. I want to succeed as much as you do. I want to be as well as I can be, but I need to do it at a different pace than I could before I got hurt. Help me to help us by paying attention and heeding the messages I send to you.
I will do my part to do my very best to get us back on our feet. I am a little worried though that if I am not exactly the same, you will reject me and may even want to kill us. Other people have wanted to kill their brains, and some people have succeeded. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want you to die.
I want us to live, and breath and be, even if being is not the same as it was. Different may be better. It may be harder too, but I don’t want you to give up. Don’t give up on me. Don’t give up on yourself. Our time here isn’t through. There are things that I want to do and I want to try – even if trying has to be done in a different way. It isn’t easy. I have to work very hard, much harder, and I know that you do too. I see people scoff, and misunderstand. I don’t care. What I do care about is that you understand how hard I am working, how much I want to be as good as I can be. I need you to take good care of us, as well as you can do that.
Don’t be ashamed of me. We are alive. We are still here. I want the chance to show you what we are made of. I want to show you the things that are really important in life. We have been given another chance to be better, to learn what is important. When it is finally time for our final exit I would like to look back and feel good about what we made of us, out of everything that made up our life, including this injury. I cannot do it without you. I cannot do it if you hate me for the way being injured has affected me and our life together. Please try not to be bitter in grief. That would crush me.
Please don’t reject me. There is little I can do without you – without your determination to not give up. Take good care of us and of yourself. I need you very much, especially now.
your wounded brain