Anyone who has become a part of the TAP family can appreciate how quickly life can change in the blink of an eye. The shift in identity for those of us, our families, and friends who have endured these events is immediate and life-altering. A second in time can bring heartbreak, anger, and frustration.
But the passage of time is also a gift. We are still here.
Time brings perspective. In 2013, I was featured as part of the 12 Days of TAP. At the time, I was an active member of the TAP Challenge and Back to Work groups and had just returned to work after sustaining a traumatic brain injury that June. I was still processing the realities of living with aphasia and apraxia of speech. I was also still working through the grief of losing my dad to stroke the previous October. In a way, my injury was a gift because it allowed me to focus on something (anything) other than the pain I felt after his death. The first time I walked into TAP’s office, the inspiration, encouragement, and motivation was palpable. For the first time, I truly felt like recovery was possible. But more than recovery, I felt like living life was possible. Seeing other group members going through similar struggles reiterated to me that we are people (first) trying to navigate an often confusing and frustrating “new” normal.
Today (December 1st), I rode my bike to UNC to attend class and watched the trees shed the last of their leaves. It has now been 1874 days since my dad died and 1674 days since my traumatic brain injury.
But today, it has also been 562 days since my daughter Ellie was born. I see my dad in her face and in her sense of humor. I see my stubbornness (so key to my recovery) in her tenacity. I see my husband (who previously had the dual role of caregiver) in her thoughtfulness. No matter what I do from this point, she will always be my greatest accomplishment.
It has also been 466 days since I returned to school to pursue a doctorate in Speech and Hearing Sciences. Over the past year, my husband Paul (who also returned to school to pursue a doctorate in Health Policy and Management in 2015) conducted a study identifying access barriers to outpatient rehabilitative care after stroke. I am also working on identifying better informational supports for caregivers of people with aphasia. We all know there is still so much work to be done.
Last October, I participated in TAP’s first annual Strides for Speech 5K. It happened to be the same date I lost my dad. But that day I shed happy tears. On these 12 days of TAP, I am grateful for my TAP family and the inspiration TAP gave me to handle my own “new” normal, which is now just my life.