Last year, on Thanksgiving, I attempted to write about all of the things that I was grateful for (Giving Thanks), but I realized that I could only address some of the hundreds of thousands of them. That list continues to expand. I expressed my immense gratitude for so many of the incredibly benevolent and helpful people that really made a difference in my life, but I only managed to scratch the surface. There are so many people that I am lucky to know and to have a meaningful relationship with, and I am also very thankful for the circumstances of my life. I am grateful for the political, social, and financial climate that I was born into. I am often reminded about others in the world that face governmental oppression, racial or religious hatred creating the social climate of war, and the inability for some to access food or water. I am thankful for my circumstances. I know how fortunate I am. My intention is to “pay it forward” to make a positive impact in the most effective way that I am able.
To me, Thanksgiving is more than an American celebration. I like to use this national holiday to show my appreciation. I like to take a look at the people and circumstances that surround me, and the sacrifices that have been made for me. I like to think about how important it is for all of us to recognize our situation and to make a conscious choice regarding whether or not we are grateful for our circumstances.
This Year, I Have Even More to be Thankful For: The Saga Continues!
During the past year, I have learned so much about the brain and body in an attempt to rehabilitate from my brain injury. What I have found has brought me to explore different therapies. First, I want to express my deepest thanks to Dr. Thomas Culleton. Dr. Culleton’s original protocols brought me clarity, allowing me to be able to spend countless hours researching the brain and body, and choose therapies that could be helpful for me.
I am also eternally grateful to Charlene Crump, Chip Howe, Bill Perkins, Wilson Goodrich, and the entire staff of the Mary Lee Foundation, as well as the social programs that have made my recovery possible. Together, they have contributed so much to my recovery. Their existence gives me the privilege of working not only with other brain injury survivors, but counselors and teachers who come in every day to help these survivors. These programs have a high success rate in helping survivors regain some independence. I am thankful that I am able to both receive and provide help to other survivors.
I also want to thank the many doctors, health practitioners, and authors that are blogging and/or podcasting, or who are appearing on other people’s podcasts or blogs. I want to thank Dr. Alex Vasquez, Dr. Lauren Noel, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, Jimmy Moore, Chris Kresser, Sean Croxton, Jordan Reasoner, Steven Wright, and Dr. Richard Feinman, who I will be featuring in my next post. Technology has given them the opportunity to spread their wisdom, and me the opportunity to listen to the intelligent words written by thoughtful health practitioners, or conversations between brilliant minds. Because of this, I have been introduced to many therapies, enabling me to develop a set of guidelines to follow to choose therapies for myself.
After Dr. Culleton helped me out of my clouded brain fog, I embarked on a quest to optimize my brain health. Along the way, I found information indicating that inflammation anywhere in the body affects the brain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8963753), I began to study whole body health. Implementing several practices based on information discovered, I have recovered far beyond what anyone who knew the extent of my brain injury, including myself, ever thought possible. I am so thankful for the extent of my recovery. My mother once told me this: “If you don’t have your health, everything that you do have isn’t worth a thing.” So I am grateful for my health first and foremost.
My mother is a very close second on this list. I have expressed this sentiment hundreds of times, and in many different ways, but I couldn’t possibly thank my mother enough. There simply aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to express how incredible she is. I owe her more than I could ever possibly give. She saved my life and gave me a chance to reinvent myself.
When I began writing this blog, about a year and a half ago, I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. I felt compelled to write, nonetheless. As the months passed it became clear that I had a story to tell, and I felt the need to tell it. My blog never gained great popularity; I did not know how to promote it effectively; however, a few curious eyes took notice and kept up silently. I want to thank all of my original readers as well as my new readers. While I wrote mainly for my own well being, just knowing that there were some people who were reading my words meant a lot to me.
I am eternally grateful for all of my friends showing up for me when I was unable to eat, walk, or talk–especially Lyndsay Weibalk and Jenn Schindelar. By being there nearly every day, they helped me rediscover who I was and who I am. I also want to thank Jenn for being there when we came up with the CAVINBOUNCE idea, and for designing the original BOUNCE character and images with me. And I especially want to thank Jenn for going above and beyond in moving into my old apartment, taking my dog, Leroy, and for bringing him to Texas. She gave her all to keep him, and I want to thank her for ultimately making the hardest choice of her, or my, life.
I want to thank those who have, and who continue to, assist me with my writing. A huge thank you to Megan Moore, who helped me begin to find my writing voice, about a year ago. An incredibly huge thank you to Wisam Alshaibi. Wisam and I were inseparable for years during our adolescence. He is one of my oldest friends, but some things got sour and we did not speak for more than a year. After my brain injury, Wisam sent his warmest regards my way, and when I started blogging, he showed interest as a reader. I want to thank Wisam for the effort that he put forth to rekindle our relationship, and the honesty that he seems to have with his friends, his family, and most importantly with himself. Wisam ended up becoming an extremely helpful editor to me, and he continues to help me find my writing voice while I hone my ability to effectively write scientifically, and to open up and write very honestly and personally.
Several other writers whom I have recently met have stepped in to give me their assistance as well. I want to thank James Felkner for becoming an incredible friend in the few months that we have known each other, and for helping me to focus on my ability to break down complex scientific concepts into understandable terms while still telling a compelling story. Jim has over 30 years’ experience as a corporate and medical writer. He knows how to communicate scientific information in terms that most people can understand. This is a letter that he wrote about me: A Letter FROM The Editor
I also want to thank Rachel Flowers for her assistance with polishing my work to more effectively convey my ideas. As a health coach that I endorse, Rachel is also at least somewhat, and oftentimes more, familiar with some of the science that I am writing about. She provides special insight into my writing.
I also want to thank the entire Butler family, but especially the most bad-ass girl I know, Ms. Laurel Butler. Laurel and I met at drivers ed when we were 15, and we have been good friends ever since. A few years before my brain injury, I went out to New Mexico for Laurel’s wedding to a man who, I was told, was equally as remarkable as she. I would expect nothing less of Laurel. The wedding was a beautiful ceremony that was a lot of fun. I even got to teach Ewen’s little cousin some of my break-dancing moves!
While I was in the hospital, Laurel sent me care packages while I was unable to eat, walk, or talk, and we texted back and forth throughout my recovery. This is one of those texts from those silent and immobile times.
As the months passed I showed her my blog, and she kept up with my writing. About a year ago, when I realized that I had a story to tell, I got the wild idea of launching a Kickstarter campaign for my book. I needed to create a video for the campaign. Laurel reminded me that her husband, Ewen Wright, is a filmmaker and that she would talk to him about my video project.
I cannot thank Ewen Wright enough for working with me, through several edits, pro bono, to take my video to the point where I felt it was ready. After months and months of gathering photos and videos that documented my entire life, especially my recovery after my brain injury, Ewen and I used the technology he knows so well to transfer the content from my home in Austin, TX, thousands of miles away to his home in Oakland, CA and back. Through emails, I would describe my thoughts to Ewen about the video, and he would masterfully execute my instructions as though he could see the movie in my head. I knew that the video had to be just about perfect, and I am so thankful that Ewen got it there!
I want to thank the rest of Laurel’s incredible family as well. A huge thank you to Laurel’s extremely talented little sister, Elise, and their amazing father, David Butler. Not only did both Elise and David donate to help me as soon as they heard that I was in the hospital with a brain injury, but they both also contributed to my Kickstarter campaign. What’s more, their help in promoting the video made a huge difference in spreading the word as well. After David read my first chapter, he even offered to help me write the book, and I eagerly accepted! Here’s to the Butlers! You are all family to me, and I love you all dearly!
I especially want to thank Alek Hess. Alek held my hand through my exploration of Reddit and, with his know-how, skill, and finesse, we managed to get my story to go viral. Because of this I am now receiving emails from all over the world. I get the opportunity to help brain injury survivors in all walks of life. Alek has become my partner on this project so that I can focus more on writing, studying, and helping other brain injury survivors. The amount of relief Alek provides is a blessing. It is great to have such a brilliantly capable partner who thinks similarly to me. We work superbly together on creative projects.
It is strange how things come full circle. Alek and I used to play in a band, called “CRAZY ACHMED,” together during our freshmen year of high school. Oddly, Wisam Alshaibi was also in this band as our drummer. Even stranger, yet almost expectantly, this band formed just before I met Laurel Butler, and she used to come to our practices and shows. She also played a huge part in our group, and we all used to spend nearly every day together. Now I have a chance to work with these brilliantly creative people yet again! This time, however, it is in a way that I feel is far more meaningful than our earlier work on the adolescent and entitled punk songs of our youth.
Seeing Eye to Eye: A Thanks to the Vision Therapy Community
Not only am I thankful that I have had the opportunity to increase my brain function through vision therapy (VT), but I am also thankful for the exposure that resulted from the interview that I did with Robert Nurisio. The publicity from that interview got my name and project notice from the VT community.
My gratitude for the VT community’s support of this project is immense, and I am so incredibly grateful for the doctors, optometrists, and therapists that study and use these methods to train the eye and brain. I will never forget a message that I received from an optometrist in New Jersey named JL Barrio. I have never met JL in my life, but during my Kickstarter campaign, he gave an extremely generous contribution to my project. JL said that he had never given such a contribution to anyone before, but that he was “that moved by [my] story.” Not only did JL go above and beyond to help a complete stranger, but JL is hilarious as well! We have had quite a few conversations, and I am so thankful and feel so validated by JL’s words to me:
“I am grateful for the benefit of VT being part of the message you’re spreading but I know it’s just a small part of everything. With the great VT community response you’ve gotten, I’m sure you feel pressured to being this VT poster boy, a la Sue Barry. The will power was yours and your recovery was aided with a multi-disciplinary effort. Nonetheless, I am glad you do support VT. Just don’t want you to think we (or at least I) see you as just a VT case/spokesperson. I am inspired, amongst all the other different ways by you, to gain the extra tools of VT and maybe neuro-optometric rehab and be there for someone like you some day.”
Since this project has been successful, I do not feel pressured to be anyone other than myself, not that I would have caved to such pressure if I did feel it. I am so thankful for the VT community’s support. JL said it spot on: My goal is to change the commonly practiced model of neuro-rehabilitation, and while VT is a HUGE part of what I envision that new model to include, it is not the ONLY therapy that I advocate.
Backers are Bouncers!
Last, but most certainly not least, I am so thankful to the nearly 300 backers who showed their support for this project. Even with everyone who helped me to make this project sing, it would not mean anything if it weren’t for the support from each of the backers. I AM SO THANKFUL TO YOU ALL. In a live Tom Waits album, “Nighthawks at the Diner,” Tom thanks the audience by saying “I want to thank you all for coming here this evening. It really made my night. It would have been real strange here if nobody showed up.” Thank you all for showing up. Thank you all again and again!
This is one of those cases where a dollar means a whole lot more than a dollar. A dollar means that you support what I am trying to do. This Thanksgiving, I am undoubtedly and enormously grateful beyond any feeling of gratitude that I have ever experienced before. The fact that I am able to express my gratitude, in itself, is something that I am very thankful for!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL!