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Firing Neurons and Finding Fulfillment with Brain Injury

A chance encounter leads to new perspectives on TBI and insight into the link between brain stimulation, emotional health, and fulfillment.


A graphic of 8 outlines of a profile view of human body from the shoulders up. Each is a different color and contains a graphic depicting their brain. The brain graphics include pathways and circles, flowers and circles, various sized circles, puzzle pieces, numbers, gear shifts, and synapses.

Lyft Driver: My nephew has a brain injury, and he talks incessantly about absolutely nothing! He should be happy! Doesn’t really have any legit responsibilities, and he works part-time. He pisses me off. 


Frank: OK. Well, he works part-time and has a low-paying, volatile job, right?


Lyft Driver: Yeah, he bags groceries. 


Frank: He bags groceries with a degree from Purdue. Way overqualified and way intellectually under-stimulated in that job. 


Lyft Driver: Oh yeah, definitely. What’s your point?


Frank: Your brain is like a muscle, and if you don’t consistently learn new things, your brain atrophies with or without brain injury. 


Lyft Driver: Right, I get that. 


Frank: So if a person’s brain isn’t regularly stimulated, and especially if they have a brain injury that impairs emotional processing abilities, then what’s gonna happen to the person conversationally over time?


Lyft Driver: They’ll become more moody and emotionally volatile. 


Frank: Yes. Sometimes, they will also talk purely as a way to stimulate their brain and get the neurons firing absent activities and tasks that stimulate their brain. That’s why your nephew may say a lot without having much to say. 


Lyft Driver: Damn, that helps a lot. Do you have a brain injury?


Frank: Yes, I do…Of sorts, from birth. 


 

This recent edifying conversation with a complete stranger affirmed that time spent socializing with a wide range of driven people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) has taught me a thing or two not in textbooks. 


Additionally, this conversation reinforces the relationship between a stimulated, active brain and emotional and physical health. Learning new things within the limits of a person’s capabilities and engaging in mind-expanding work furthers a person’s neurological health every bit as much as engaging in new fitness routines. 


A graphic of a pink brain with arms, legs, and a face. It is doing bicep curls with teal dumbbells.

2LIV4 moments invite the participation of the whole human body. Thus, mental and intellectual stimulation engenders 2LIV4 moments as much as physical stimulation. Disability or no disability, the routine discipline of working in accord with our capacity contributes to our dignity as humans and to those moments that remind us why we continue to rise, breathe, move, cultivate connections and relationships, and love our lives and the people in our lives a little more deeply. 


Within the limits of capability and within the parameters of safety, never overlook the power of random conversations and exchanges with strangers. We all carry visible and invisible wounds and whether we carry 4 limbs or 2, may the knowledge that we never carry them alone help us all to keep rising and to keep watch for the 2LIV4 moments as they arise.


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