Looks the same, Doesn’t work the same

Frustration. It comes and goes. It comes less frequently now, but when it arrives, its head is ugly and upsetting. My definition of a brain injury is that everything looks the same, but it doesn’t work the same.

I challenged myself this week to step outside my comfort zone and try something different. There are so many things I want to do but I know I’m not cut out for the task so I step aside. Other times I feel like I need to try, to push my limits and see where the line is drawn. I’m usually ok in a group to do just about anything. With a group, when I get confused there is always someone to help me, someone to cover for me, or someone that knows I might just need a little extra time or instruction. When I’m on my own, it’s all me.

This week I took a bold step to volunteer at church to help at VBS. Justin is working games, Hunter is helping lead worship, and the mom in me finds it hard to drop the boys off, with 300+ kids, and not try to help. Sometimes I feel guilt telling me I don’t help enough, sometimes I hear a voice just begging me to try. So this week I tried. Monday went ok. I couldn’t be there Tuesday so yesterday I was back in my assigned place. All was going fine until I was asked to change gears and help fill in a spot where more help was needed. The age group was bulging at the seams and they asked me to help with their snacks and crafts. Ah…..

Ok, to start with I simply don’t do crafts. It’s not in my genes. When I was in the Elementary church choir my mom had to make my own costume. I will never forget her telling me to lie down very still on the fabric while she traced my body on the fabric. She doubled it over and cut the fabric along the lines and sewed the two pieces together. My belt was a shoe string. I thought my costume was fantastic…until I showed up to dress rehearsal and saw everyone else’s costumes. Clearly my mother and I yielded ALL creative ability to my Uncle and his children, as they are artistically gifted in monumental portions and we are not.

Back to VBS…when I was asked to help elsewhere, everything in my servant heart wanted to, but the immediate swelling in my throat and rushed heart beat was screaming NO! How do I look at someone and say “I can’t”? They won’t understand me, I look able bodied but I knew as my brain began spinning inside my head this could not end well. I explained that I would try, and a gentle but confused face met my comment. My brain kept spinning and wondering what to do. I saw Justin and asked him for help. How desperate must I be? I’m 39 years old asking my 14 year old what to do in the face of a simple request to change direction? I felt like the 3 year olds who needed more help. Justin was sincere but stern “Mom, you can’t do that. You have to tell someone you can’t.” Oh, how I hate these moments when I can sense the physical symptoms emerging from the darkness of a brain injury and I know I have met my limit. I know I look the same, but things don’t work the same anymore.

I was alone. I wasn’t with a group that could explain, I wasn’t with a group that could cover for me and I wasn’t with a group that could pick up my slack. The people around me don’t know my brain has been hurt and I hate having to say it. I had to look at someone who hardly knows me and just say “I’m sorry but I really can’t do this.” Our world doesn’t understand adults who can’t pull their load, especially when the world can’t see it. No one is at fault, no one means harm, it’s just that no one expects a capable looking adult to say “I’m sorry but no.” With all my strength I spoke up for myself and felt completely useless as I walked away knowing there was a need that I couldn’t fulfill. My heart ached that I couldn’t help but I knew the increasing stress was going to lead to the public embarrassment of a seizure. I looked around and the noise of the kids echoed, the busy adults overwhelmed me. I felt like I was in a fog at the center of a carnival ride. I felt invisible, useless and helpless in the midst of need. I couldn’t help where help was needed and feeling demoralized by admitting my inadequacies, I slipped out the side door to the safety of my car and I drove away.

I stepped outside my comfort zone this week. Some of it was successful and in other places I know where the line is drawn. I have to be proud that at least I tried. I will try again, something different, somewhere different, and hope that I will find a place were I can say “yes, I can help with that”.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, June 2013

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3 thoughts on “Looks the same, Doesn’t work the same

  1. Anne P.W-Z says:

    I am VERY proud of you!!!! Love you so much!

  2. Teri Murphy says:

    I wish I could put my thoughts and feelings into the written word one tenth as good as you so eloquently are able to do. You are AMAZING ! and I am proud to know you.

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