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A New Life After Traumatic Brain Injury

brain-mappingIncurring a Traumatic Brain Injury is life-altering, to say the least.  Many of the challenges TBI survivors face are misunderstood by those who love them and know them.

Today, our  guest authors and survivors have shared some of their experiences with us to help other TBI survivors and their loved ones cope with their new life after TBI.


Jennifer’s Life After TBI

As a Survivor, I came to with a passion to give back. Too much liability to volunteer with even the ASPCA. I knew I had a reason to still be here, it wasn’t about myself anymore. But how to help? Who would want a person as disabled as me?

So I decided to share my new starts and stops, walks and falls, goods and bads in situations all TBI Survivors are confronted with. I can share with them as I have actually walked a mile in their own shoes, but with different results. Sharing with Survivors is what I am now about. Paying it Forward, I say!

Since I am “Manic” Happy, I will share inspiration that helped me, tell you how I fought my own way out of the fog to the light. I don’t find humor in limitations, but I believe in learning to find our own internal compass through humor, helping to see a different perspective, and through shared frustrations, how I overcame myself.

I promote sharing, caring, understanding, and respecting each personal ability within each personal limitation. TBI Survivors can’t be taught, we have to learn all over again for ourselves – the only way the brain can rewire. But sometimes we just need help when we get stuck. That is what I am here to try to help with – get ya past the hump ahead, even if that is butt-scooting around to get where you want to go.

Live by heart, spirit/soul, and instincts. They are all I know now. Before my accident I lived other ways, but have now realized that was the true disability in my life.

Jennifer Stokley, TBI Survivor

“You Are Not Who You Were, Be Who You Are”

I heard someone say this at a rally before the annual Pikes Peak Challenge in Colorado and it struck me. I was given all kinds of tools and strategies to deal with the cognitive losses from my 6th (or more) concussions, but was not doing well.  That was because I continues to try to do things the way I’d been doing them before my TBI, unwilling to leave behind the person I had been. Until you quit looking back, mourning the person you were, and the abilities you had, you can’t move forward and become the person you well be.  We are all different after our TBI, but for many of us, we are not worse but better.  I can say with conviction that I am right where I am supposed to be in my life, and happy to be on this journey.

Cheryle Sullivan, Family Physician, Author, TBI Journey, Inc


About Cheryle Sullivan: Cheryle is a physician with a TBI. She lost her mother in 1997 at age 61 to a fall-caused skull fracture and TBI. She attributes the loss of her medical career to the consequences of repetitive mild TBIs in 2003.  In 2005 her father had a fall-related TBI. Cheryle recently became his full-time caregiver. Cheryle has a passion for raising TBI awareness in the medical and lay community, and volunteers providing educational presentations on TBI.

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11 Responses
  1. Jennifer Stokley

    Bless ya all for posting what I write to help other TBI Survivors. It truly is a blessing,. It lets me know that even one other person connects with what I write, how I feel, and to be inspired (as you just did for me) is so vital for all after a Brain Injury!

      1. Jennifer Stokley

        Its a true blessing just to be a fighter/survivor, and being able to help any survivor. This is such a scary, bumpy journey for us all after a Brain Injury! I am on this journey, and I try to truly share my good/bad/ugly of daily life, but always seem to be happy, LOL.

    1. CNS

      Hi Jamie, thank you for your comment. Your happiness is an encouragement to others. Stop by again!

  2. BIO

    I grew up figure skating, until I eventually trained to enter Ice Capades. I remember performing on the ice at the Los Angeles Forum, while auditioning. It was so smooth I felt as if I was gliding on glass.

    The reactions of the panel were that my skating was good, but my thighs were too big. They went on to say that, with constant travel between shows, there’d be no time to repair costumes if the seams were split.

    Years later I was an instructor for Jack La Lannes Health Spa. Guess what? No more heavy thighs! It was not the kind of job with a future though. Later on, I was hired as a prop maker for Warner Bros. Studios. I worked on such shows as Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, Eight Is Enough… I also took jobs on my own, designing and constructing stain glass windows.

    On the night of December 6th, 1978, while driving home I was broad sided by a truck. I fell into a coma and did not awaken for five weeks. Even though I did show slight signs of life, it still took me an additional five weeks to arrive at a state of awareness. Now that I’m awake, I have not stopped. Hurdle after hurdle might have slowed me down temporarily, but I knew there was a reason that I was still here. I even attempted to return to my old job at the studios, but was unable to keep up. Another hurdle…

    I graduated from LIFE BIBLE College in 1989. The complete story is in my book, HOW I BECAME A FEARLESS WOMAN by Pamela Jansen, which is now available online at Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, NACSCORP and Baker and Taylor. Featured in the book, Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits by Nancy Alspaugh and Marilyn Kentz, photography by Mary Ann Halpin.

    I speak to different groups about my story and how to never lose hope, or they will give in to that fear of defeat. Acting became a love of mine that I am not about to shake. I began studying in 2001 because, I realized… If I can’t get there behind the camera, I’ll get there in front!

    © Copyright 2011

    1. Jennifer Stokley

      bless ya’ll, didn’t even know ya did this, or mentioned me, again bless ya.

      Here’s another you may like, lol.


      So many of us after a brain injury, myself included big time, find ourselves so unhappy, confused, and feeling so lost. We truly are not, but we don’t comprehend this yet. Give it time, it will come when its time for it.

      I found for myself, the first 4-5 years, I was so stuck within myself. This was so Necessary for me to fight my way from the fog to my light.

      But miracle of miracles, after such a grueling fight every moment of the way, I started to see glimpses of the beyond, beyond my small world I had needed for so long. It is amazing!

      I now realize, I can find beautiful, in almost everything I see, hear, smell, taste, feel. And it brings my heart such joy.

      Please work on experiencing the beautiful, we are alive, we are survivors, we have earned the experience of BEAUTIFUL!

      Jeni 5/25/13

  3. Jennifer Stokley


    One day, we are walking along, when whoosh, down we go. The Brain Injury Rabbit Hole.

    We fall to the bottom, where many of us, like I myself did, reside for quite sometime. Warm burrow, to snuggle, sleep, and try to just heal a bit. When we are able to wake long enough, we try to look around to understand our surroundings, only to fall sound asleep again.

    As time goes by, slowly like slow motion, we start to get a sense of our surroundings. There is a light at the top of the hole, but that is way beyond our reach, and no energy yet to even bother with it. There are tunnels all around, but they are all unknown, and we are not as yet ready to even be curious of where they may lead, or why.

    As time goes on, we may be up to trying out a few tunnels close by, scared, but always knowing where our burrow is so we can return and rest and recoup when needed. We may take off and just wander, or we may only take a few safe hops at a time, but our curiosity is natural and will drive us farther over time. But the light at the top is way too much to even bother with right now.

    As more time passes, we are no longer content to just stay in the burrow. We wander, knowing at times, lost at times, but we are unable to just “stay”. We try new tunnels, with twists and turns, frightened but also very curious. We run into dead-ends, we trip and fall, we scrape our noses (or butts, or whatever), we sometimes even get so tired we have to just curl up right where we are, and sleep for a bit.

    Except for our burrow, at first and for a long time after for many, we don’t understand anything else, nor do we care because it is just too confusing. But things never stay the same, and this changes as time goes by. We long to escape our burrow, but for a long time, for many, escape is a far-off dream.

    As we take the time, fight and kick, stretch, gain strength and find confidence in ourselves we slowly get up our nerve to try and at least reach the light above.

    For many, like myself, we reach the light, sniff and look around, and then its back into the safety of our burrow. We may do this often, many times, till we are ready to try out the world, but alas, many of us do not find what is out there is something we really want, what we want and may even need is the safety of our burrow. We may be ready tomorrow, or never, but we don’t know. All we want to do is curl up in our safe burrow and rest, and sleep.

    Jeni 6/23/13

    1. Sharon

      Beautifully written expression of “me”…. I am going to copy in order to share with friends, family and anyone else who may need/want to understand. Thank you.