Thursday, December 29, 2011

Not With That Attitude

I recall being at physiotherapy, a couple months after the crash, working on my balance with two physiotherapists. I was balancing on one foot for about 20 seconds, between those horizontal bars, with a therapist on either side of me, each with a hand on the waistband.
There was another woman there, with a severe brain injury from a vehicle collision, as well. She was working with her own physiotherapist. Her injury happened a few months prior to mine. Her physiotherapist asked her, at one point, if she wanted to try what I was doing. She declined, saying she knew she couldn't do it. Right on cue, I said, "Well not with that attitude." All of the therapists made an 'oooo' sound. It was pretty funny. Lucky for me, this woman was familiar with my ways from seeing each other multiple times a week at exercise therapy, so she knew I was teasing.

If I had to say the most important lesson this brain injury has taught me, it is a positive attitude helps everything.
Absolutely, 100% attitude.
If you don't think you can do it, you simply can't. Easy as that.

Of course, I realize things are a little more complicated than that.
I know that this woman isn't doing as well as I am. I know that her brain injury is probably, and very likely, very different from mine. At the same time, I can't help but wonder, if maybe she had a more positive outlook, maybe she wouldn't be as . . . brain damaged? Maybe, if she didn't feel so defeated...if that makes any sense? I know, for myself, when I have down, depressed days, I don't accomplish near the amount I'm usually able to. I can feel so defeated. I act defeated. So I am. Defeated.

Attitude, I've noticed, has helped me to try. Just try.
Even if I'm not totally confident that I will be able to accomplish what I'm trying, I do usually surprise myself.
Which is funny, cause how am I still surprised?? 

Don't get me wrong, I can(and do!) make some horrible messes, and foolish mistakes. Let me tell you what, boy howdy! But, and maybe I'm totally wrong here, but isn't that the point of living?
To make messes and mistakes? That's not quite what I'm saying . . . what I mean is, isn't the point of living, to make messes and mistakes, then to learn from those messes and mistakes?
Cause, once you're's too late. You can't learn. You can't change anything. Ever.

I love being able to learn about something, and then change my behaviour accordingly.
Live and learn, right? LOVE IT!! Love living.

This appreciation of learning(& living) helped me to accept that everything(okay, not everything, but an incredible amount of shit!) that I thought I knew, wasn't true. I learned, then adapted my behaviour accordingly. I'm talking about becoming vegan, in case that wasn't clear.
I also want to tell you to check your references. I can find anything I want, to justify anything I want justified on the Internet. Pay attention to sources. Who is this information coming from? Who funded this research?

Sorry, back on topic!
The brain injury just reinforced what I've been hearing from professionals for a long time. Being positive helps.

Learning to shift my thinking has been very useful! For both my brain injury and my veganism. I've been retraining my brain since waking from the coma, maybe that's why it's been pretty simple? Or maybe it just isn't that hard?
So, I shifted my thinking, as suggested by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in an episode, Defintion: Vegan, of her podcast, Vegetarian Food For Thought.
“Can you eat this?” “Are you allowed to eat that?” Can you eat bread?” These are some of the common questions non-vegetarians ask vegans, and here’s the short answer: We can eat whatever we want. We’re “allowed” to have whatever we want. Nobody’s stopping us. It’s not illegal. We don’t follow a set of dietary laws, and we are technically quite capable. It’s not a matter of not being “able to,” it’s not a matter of “can” and “cannot.” It’s a matter of not WANTING to. Being vegan is not about restriction. Or limitation. Or rules. Or doctrine. We’re not forbidden to eat animals. We don’t WANT to eat animals. It’s a choice – and a powerful choice that has the potential to heal the entire planet. Yes, I said it. 
I couldn't have put it as beautifully as Colleen, so I took the above from her website.

Shifting my thinking helped immensely.
Now, I make sure to say to anyone that says I can't have something because it isn't vegan, "to be more accurate, it isn't that I can't have it, it's that I don't want it." I try to stress that being vegan is a choice. Just like eating animals is a choice.
Which I've found that most people don't even realize it's a choice. You don't have to eat animals.

The other day, we were out for lunch with friends, talking about which farm animals we would have if we had land. My vegetarian friend said she have goats. I said I'd have pigs(rescues-of course), they're so cute and smart. The man across from me(can't recall his name, I think this was the second time I've met him) said that he loved bacon too. I gave him a wry smile, waiting for him to make note of my necklace that says vegan. His wife was quick to point out my necklace.
His response was, "I'm a carnivore."
I said, "To be more accurate, you're a carnist. You're eating plants right now."
"With much protest." He replied.
"Biologically, we're both omnivores. I'm still able to digest animals and their secretions, I just choose not to eat them."
Of course, I didn't say it as eloquently, I stumbled over my words a bit. Troy touched my leg halfway through my speech, I suspect because it seemed like I was getting excited.
I was more frustrated with my bumbling mouth.
Either way, the guy didn't say another word to me. Which, I guess is fine. I spoke my truth. Maybe it'll get him thinking about choices. Or maybe now he thinks all vegans are clumsy, inarticulate and slow.
Maybe I didn't come across as terrible as it sounds. Troy and I haven't talked about that encounter.


  1. You're clearly awesome and have figured out a lot about your own recovery. We have a friend with brain damage problems after an accident, so I can understand a little of what you're saying. This person was working very hard not only on a positive attitude in the face of so many real challenges, but also to very consciously visualize the neurons firing in proper order. I think it must all help, in a very real way.

    I've only just started becoming physically fit in the last few years, and while that doesn't have anything to do with your recovery, the logic is the same: if you think you can do it, you likely CAN. If you don't think you can do it, you block yourself from the start. I've leapt boulders that i never would have allowed myself to before, lifted weights that I never thought possible before ... it's really so interesting how we hold ourselves back from so much of our potential.

    Love your quote from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Nice that you tried to speak up at your dinner party, and what a good point to make.

    I just found your blog, and I really appreciate it! Thanks for writing your experiences.

  2. Thank you very much, veganactivist!!
    I like to think that imagining my neurons finding new pathways makes a difference. :)
    I adore Colleen Patrick-Goudreau! She has been so inspiring for me!
    But for sure, positive attitude is where it's at! It's amazing how often I surprise myself.