Hays: The trap of holding onWritten by Pam Hays | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I heard a story recently about the difficulty of catching ring-tailed lemurs in Africa, which are wanted by zoos around the world. They don’t fall prey to conventional methods of trapping, so a more creative approach is needed.
Right about now, you are thinking you have come across an article from National Geographic. You haven’t. Hang in there with me for a minute and I will segue from African animals to traumatic brain injury.
The Zulus on the continent of Africa had to do two very important things before they could even begin to figure out how to trap a ring-tailed lemur. They had to learn about them and they had to develop a great understanding of them. The Zulus found through their observations that ring-tailed lemurs just loved a certain melon that was native to the African continent. The lemurs would spend much time finding these melons and then gnaw at the melon’s outer rind to find their way not to the pulp but the seeds. They would dig in with their hands, grasp the seeds and devour them for hours on end, going from melon to melon.
Once the Zulus figured out the melon was what the lemurs sought more than anything, the melon became the trap. But it wasn’t enough to just put the melons inside a trap; the lemur would simply run away and go find a different melon. What the trappers did that worked was to cut a small hole in the top of each melon. The lemurs would then come to the melon, reach in for the seeds and grab them.
But how was that a trap, you might be asking? The lemurs loved the seeds so much that they refused to let go of them. Their balled up fists could not fit through the hole to release them from these large melons. They would scream and fight to get the melon off of their hand, but to no avail. It was more important to hold on to the seeds and remain trapped, than to gently open their fists, let the seeds go and find freedom.
Maybe there is a fear that another melon might not come along, or maybe it is because no one ever taught a lemur how to let go if trapped in a melon. Maybe you can see now where this story fits in with the life of someone who has a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
At some point, many survivors reach a point in their rehabilitation where they have to make some tough decisions. Clinging to the “seeds” in their lives after a TBI only keeps them stuck in the “melon” of negative thinking, like “I used to be able to do that,” “If I try harder I will be like I used to be,” “No one will ever love me like this,” “Is my life always going to be like this?” or “Is life worth living if I can’t be like I was before?” This self-talk prevents survivors from finding the freedom to explore a new life — a life that now includes TBI.
At The Arms Forces we see our veterans’ traps and we do all we can to ensure their lives are not stuck. We gently help them open themselves up to release the seeds that are holding them back from a life free from stigma, free from the bondage of never believing they are “good enough,” free to have a life that includes a degree of comfort, peace, self-esteem, meaningful work, loving relationships and understanding.
I can’t repeat this enough: The journey for a TBI survivor can be one that goes from extreme adversity to joyful renewal! I am reminded of that every time I look at my own life as a severe TBI survivor. Ring-tailed lemurs and TBIs — who would have thought.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. More than 1.7 million civilians sustain a brain injury each year. Depending on where you get your information, it is reported that up to 500,000 veterans have received a brain injury since 2000.
Brain injury affects more people than the other top five health issues in our country added together. The World Health Organization predicts it will be the No. 1 health concern in the world by 2020. Protect the head!
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, www.thearms forces.org; (419) 891-2111; Facebook.com/thearmsforces.