Jennifer Callaghan’s story shares how she put herself back together after suffering a severe brain injury sustained as a passenger in a car crash. She recounts how her life felt -- from within (“lost and panic-stricken inside your head”), using up "the all-to-sparse energy" she had in the most mundane tasks (making lunch, handling money, returning phone calls, managing sleep).
Ms. Callaghan uses self-honesty to capture how "lacking in empathy" she was during the process of relearning activities of daily life skills. Her ongoing struggles with out-of-control anger, feelings of inadequacy and loss of meaning are vivid. Relearning how to read and write, walking a straight line, re-engaging in social activities without a chaperone, and the biggest adventure of all – crossing a road, capture the reader. The “new identity” imposed by her brain injury, which then created emotional upheaval for her – changing her self-image to “slow, dependent, forgetful, unable to function like the people around,” her is riveting. In one example of coping, Jennifer recounts the challenges of traveling by train after her TBI; a time when eating out at a restaurant and got angry ("lost my temper, then escalated verbally"); when taking driving lessons in order to regain driving privileges; discovering how stress relieving it was to join and participate in a brain injury support group. As you read, you will find yourself walking through her life with her.
The TBI journey and story of Jennifer Callaghan is unique to her, and yet it allows others to make comparisons to their own struggles, progress, and years of recovery. Overcoming TBI related setbacks, she discovers her capacity expands to become a volunteer literacy teacher. She realizes a sense of accomplishment and gains self-identity as she helps others. The limitations of her TBI required increased awareness for engaging in self-care practices. Jennifer Callaghan has learned of the kindness of others (ex. her student). She has and is learning how to make a place for herself again.
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