If I Only Had a Brain Injury:
A TBI Survivor and Life Coach's Guide to Chronic Fatigue,
Concussion, Lyme Disease, Migraine, or Other "Medical Mystery"
A Special ebook for Caregivers, Survivors and Treatment Providers
By Laura Bruno, M.A., RMT
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
I understand the physical and emotional toll exacted by sudden dependence on other people, misdiagnoses, insurance restrictions,
legal battles, and a society that does not recognize your symptoms.
I know how it feels to go from "high achiever" to "below average" and have doctors tell you to feel grateful.
I realize how body and brain can become so fatigued that you cannot possibly get out of bed—even though you just slept sixteen hours.
I understand, because on May 19, 1998 a car accident destroyed the life I knew. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) replaced my sales
career and graduate school fellowship. Instead of tangible bonuses or grades, I spent the next six years chasing elusive Recovery.
According to one clinician who treats TBI, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,
"Most people reach a comfortable state of disability and then quit."
He admired me for persevering, even when doctors told me I would never read longer than twenty minutes per day.
He praised my determination to tolerate florescent lights again. He told me I must possess amazing willpower to continue searching for
This clinician might have known how people typically respond to trauma, but he certainly did not understand my motivation to recover.
Simply put, I hated being injured. I wanted my life back.
Actually, I wanted more than that. I had missed my mid-to-late-twenties; I wanted a new life that was so good, it helped make up for what I'd
lost. As long as I could imagine abetter life, I would not resign myself to quitting. I felt compelled to reach for something more.
If I Only Had a Brain Injury is for the other Wizard of Oz fans of this world: for the dreamers. For those who dare ask, "Why
oh why...can't I?" and refuse to let ill health provide a final answer. I wrote this book for anyone who has ever wished to go
"somewhere over the rainbow."
Frank Baum presents one of the strangest (and most famous) examples of TBI in his classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Hours after Dorothy wishes to go "somewhere over the rainbow," she hits her head on a window frame ripped loose by the twister.
The impact knocks her out. In the space between knock out and reawakening, Dorothy finds herself "somewhere over the rainbow."
Her epic journey begins as she tries to find her way back home.
Few people recognize the centrality of brain injury in The Wizard of Oz, but this beloved film informed my recovery.
I remember watching it the first time post-injury: "If Dorothy can find her way from Oz to Kansas, then surely I can find
my way from total disability to some variety of 'real world' life."
To my blunted intellect, Dorothy's fairy tale victory seemed at least as relevant as any medical prognosis.
Like Ruby Slippers magically appearing on my feet, the film lit up my mind-prompting me to find and follow a golden path to healing.
As a child believes in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or The Wizard of Oz, I believed I could get well.
Dorothy begins the film by longing for something more than mere survival: "If happy little bluebirds fly, then why, oh, why, oh why can’t I?"
Lonely and bored, she would probably have remained a mere daydreamer were it not for the timely arrival of Miss Gulch.
The angry neighbor confiscates the girl's beloved Toto.
When the dog returns home, Dorothy recognizes the impossibility of inaction. For if Miss Gulch finds Toto again, she will have him killed,
and Dorothy will lose him forever.
Initially, Dorothy runs away. This action protects Toto, but Dorothy finds herself unwilling to leave her old life entirely behind.
She turns back towards Auntie Em, even though nothing at home has changed.
As soon as Dorothy Gale abandons her resolve to leave, the winds begin. She arrives at the farm, too late to join the others in a tornado shelter.
When the twister rips a window frame from the wall and knocks her out, Dorothy receives an answer to her prayer for change.
As so often happens in life-particularly to people who sustain TBI-the answer is bigger and more demanding than she thought she wanted.
But Dorothy recognizes the answer almost immediately in Munchkin Land, as she ponders, "We must be over the rainbow."
Recovery in Dorothy's case-i.e. awakening from her concussion-means returning to herself with a new perspective on the magic and compassion
of everyday life. Recovery for me meant something similar.
As a Life Coach, Medical Intuitive and former assistant to a holistic vision and brain injury clinician in Seattle,
I have aided hundreds of people dealing with life's worst nightmares.Combined with my own recovery experience, this background certainly
qualified me to write If I Only Had a Brain Injury.
Yet in October 2004, trauma struck close to home again. My husband contracted Lyme Disease from a field mouse tick bite.
Far away from the Northeastern United States' epidemic area, we initially rationalized his symptoms as a complex blend of unrelated annoyances.
However, the problems increased in severity, closely mimicking my earlier visual disturbances, headaches, fatigue and memory problems.
Numerous specialists repeated the refrain I had heard so often during my own recovery: "We just don't know what to tell you.
It could be migraines, or maybe stress. Maybe you have arthritis. Maybe none of these problems is actually related. It could
all be one huge coincidence.Are you depressed? You know, sometimes emotional problems cause physical symptoms."
Recognizing my husband's struggle, and knowing all too well how it feels on the receiving end of uncertain prognoses and raised eyebrows,
I accepted the mission to help him recover.
So many of the methods I had used to heal myself from TBI proved effective in treating his illness that I decided to expand my manuscript.
What I had initially envisioned as purely a TBI recovery book grew into a healing guide for any injury or illness that affects one's sense of
The Appendices include first person essays and interviews of survivors, caregivers and treatment providers intimately familiar
with a variety of illnesses and injuries. If you do not identify with my particular struggles and triumphs, then I hope you
will find the words and experiences of my contributors both healing and inspirational.
The suggestions in this book are ones that helped me and helped other people with TBI, brain cancer, Fibromyalgia, Lyme Disease, vertigo,
Candida overgrowth, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They also helped clients, students and friends who found their lives suddenly turned
upside down by trauma. In retrospect, these life challenges (worst nightmares) often evolved into dreams come true.
Not to say this metamorphosis was easy or exactly the way any of us would have planned! A fellow pilgrim on the road to recovery,
I designed If I Only Had a Brain Injury to support your quest for wellness and to help you learn from and appreciate the journey.
I am required by law to tell you that I am not a doctor, and I can't promise you will make a full recovery.
Nor should sharing from my own experiences and observations ever be taken as medical advice. I am a Life Coach,
Medical Intuitive, Reiki Master Teacher and Writer-not a neurologist, psychologist or infectious diseases specialist!
What I do offer here are ideas, stories and questions that help you to receive the greatest blessings from your experience-and
to embrace the greatest possible healing.
1) If you prefer a narrative, the next chapter, "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," details my first few months of TBI.
It gives you the original context and a sense of how far I needed to recover in order to write this book.
2) If you want to skip directly to the healing hints, scroll down to page 31, "Glinda."
3) If you read straight through, you will notice that the book's structure allows you to follow your own "Yellow Brick Road"
to recovery. I tell a story within a story and invite you to join the journey.
4) You can choose to read a hint a day, or one a week.
5) You can also play "Reading Roulette" and scroll to a "random" page, trusting synchronicity to provide you with exactly what you need.
With persistence, imagination and a warm heart, you, too. can find your way back home.
To learn more about this special ebook, or to purchase it, please click here.