Christmas Eve

The heater is humming, the baby is asleep, Jennifer is unwinding from the day. Our daughter’s awaking cries cause a race to re-settle her to peaceful slumber.

I set down my tea moving toward our bedroom. Jennifer flashes past, assuring her I can put the baby back to sleep.

Mom says: “I’ve got her, I miss her.” As she maintains constant motion.

Stopping in stride I let mom take this one. My heart feels so much delight bearing witness to the joy of a mothers desire to sooth her child. Even though the festivities of the day have surely tired her– she is eager to be close to our child.

Maybe this moment is the reason for the season, not bows, candy, cakes, food, or gifts. Maybe it’s love.

The chair



Katy my physical therapist had me standing in a corner -my arms crossed on my chest focusing on the wall across the room. This exercise was meant to push my vestibular system, push it did. The chair placed in front of me as a fall safe measure became in and of itself a trap. At that moment my neighbors car alarm started blaring- the sounds overwhelmed me sending my brain into a fog. Katy immediately saw my face change and knew there was a problem. I was unable to speak- I knew I needed to sit down- but the chair meant to keep me from falling- became the obstacle I wasn’t sure how to get around.

I thought for a moment- uncertain how to walk now- having to tell my feet to move- but I don’t know how to tell myself how to navigate around the chair. Most people would just push the chair out of the way- but in this state I had no idea how to clear my path. Jennifer’s voice: “push the chair Josh, push the chair out of your way.” Boom- the memory of this simple function came flooding back- I pushed the chair broke free and sat on the couch- thus was the end of physical therapy.


Inside my brain the words “why can’t I do this,” play over and over loudly. You can walk-place one foot in front of the other- “damn, walk!”

Over and over these self-criticisms grow in intensity threatening to sink my self-confidence for good, left in the bottom of the sea of self-doubt.

I have always been my harshest critic- running every choice and decision through the filter of "I cannot do this."

How many ideas haven’t been started because of fear?

The effort to do anything becomes burdensome because so much energy is consumed in just trying to overcome the obstacle of self, stealing away the the vibrancy needed to do the task at hand. The deed is dead before it breathed its first breath- turning lifelong dreams into never-ending nightmares of failure.

How many projects not completed because of insecurities?

Then I do start something-throw my weight into it, only to find myself pulling away because “I can’t, they may, I ain’t got what, etc.” These half started-half finished projects pile up- proof the voices inside my head know me- know me well…too well.

That one time I didn’t mow the lawn-I wanted to but just couldn’t- I doubted I could put the neat lines you often-it couldn’t be perfect. Therefore, instead sat gloating on the couch eating bonbons. The giant lawnmower scene from Honey I Shrunk the Kids playing over and over in my mind.

Thus the overgrown grass shows as proof- the inner critic confirming “told you so.”

Those voices speak because we have developed the habit of letting them.

The self-judging goes on because I let it. From an early age, I took these voices to be some wise critic speaking words based on something known internally. I crowned them supreme simply because they were constant companions. These phantoms have taken hold all the more since my accident. Physical therapy sessions become cry sessions as I push myself to the limits, all the while self-judgment overwhelms my senses.

I’d had enough- seeking some solace from the assault, I turned to meditation- mindfulness meditation. The first guided meditation was on self-judgement. When those thoughts come up, acknowledge they come about because I am in the habit of letting them. So then do I just push them out?-no- label them as judgment in your mind and recognize them as such.

I have found a lot more peace in this transition to a new life- the self-critic is by no means tamed. I am still working on self. The power these gloomy judgments have are diminishing as I begin to develop the new habit of ever decreasing their power and influence. This is a continuing practice-since my brain is being re-wired through the process of recovery, why not take the time to train my brain in becoming more mindful as well.

lavender plants among others

Spanish lavender
The days before my accident I planned to acquire houseplants to improve the air quality in our house. The weeks leading up to the accident had brought about my first ever visit to the emergency room- followed up by a diagnosis of asthma. All those years of finding it hard to breathe and no insurance to afford a doctor, no wonder.

One week later- the accident paused life. Even Christmas in some ways seems like it came and I slept through it. Stubbornly believing Christmas was still around the corner in January, I believed it still to be just before December 25th. The tree- the Christmas tree was up through mid February. (don’t judge me- I see you shaking that head)

When I finally got to go plant shopping I selected plants that remove molds, chemicals, and other impurities all the while giving off oxygen (what a thankless job). I also added two lavender plants to my collection. (go trader joes)

Let me tell you something traumatic brain injury exacerbates anxiety by a significant percentage. It’s no joke really-I feel hyped up particularly when things don’t go to plan- like where is the colander? The noodles are ready to be drained- you know because those 10 additional seconds can ruin it all. (the noodles were just fine) Fortunately, lavender plants are natural aides to lower anxiety- totally welcome in this house btw!

Growing lavender inside takes some tender loving care, unless your goal is to enjoy them while they slowly die- then it’s easy peasy. I want them to live a bit longer so the plants needed to be repotted, fed, dying blooms removed. They demand 8 hours of sunlight- though depending on who you read plants post-repotting need rest because they are too fragile for direct sunlight.

I feel some camaraderie, I have light sensitivity requiring I walk around with shades on looking like the coolest cat in the room. (I can still see my shadow in the mirror proof here) Though the amount of looks you get with the shades on are intense.

Working on the plants made me think about all the folks who are tending me- a life sized human shaped potted plant-with feet- and talks. Thanks to Jennifer, Gabby, Phil, Emmalise, UTSW, TX Voices, so many others who’ve cared for me- can’t wait till I’m in bloom!

I used to draw energy from crowds


Life before the accident- people were a big deal to me. I felt rushes of energy being surrounded by crowds big and small. One might have accused me of being a “people person.”


It takes so much energy to be around people- which I still like to do- but doing so results in fatigue. Large crowds can cause a multi day headache. Sometimes it’s worth it- now I just have to learn when the tradeoff is important, and factor in recovery time after.

”I long for company- I dread company”

Jennifer is good people though- I am sure she wishes I could safely drive, in order to seek relief from being my constant companion.

Lord knows I get stir crazy being locked up in my 3rd floor tower, descending from upon high for the perpetual therapies.

But hey outings to look forward to:

Psychological battery (seriously a full day of peachy psych and cognitive testing)

And…. the neuro-ophthamologist for specialized glasses.

At least I can get around- some people with accidents like mine are still bedridden and in coma’s. Something to be grateful for I guess.

-Keep it interesting


My new found friend is Sleep. We have this love-hate relationship. I run around until basically sleep says no more.

Sleep literally touches my brain – I can go from wide awake- to needing to flee like a zombie from that one guy in Walking Dead- do not stop to eat brains (haha)-bed-bed-sleep…at 2 pm… smh.

I really struggled with this chronic need to sleep in the beginning (as if I’m settled with it now-smh), but sleep is a friend in my recovery-and most likely my life long friend as the extreme fatigue may be with me for– life.

Great, Sleep and Fatigue are with me for life-we gotta get this relationship down.


Is it a good day or a bad day

What kind of day will it be? Will it be a good day or a bad day? Sometimes my hair can tell me. Sometimes migraines so intense can tell me.

Even with crazy headaches I can still choose to dance. My body got soul.

Today my hair says: “take it by the horns.”

-Life with a TBI

I’m not brain dead

Living with a traumatic brain injury doesn’t mean I am brain dead or incapable of thinking. It just means my brain processes things a bit differently. Right now thinking, speaking, reading, listening all tend to consume quite a bit more energy then they used to.

Am I the same Josh? Yes. Am I a different Josh? Yes. Am I brain dead? No.