I remember everything like it was yesterday. I was 15 with straight D’s and low self-esteem living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was sick of my life. So I took my parents car and hit the road for California. I sped down desert roads getting further and further away from home. I thought nothing could happen to me, I was invincible. Then the unexpected happened, I fell asleep behind the wheel and began to skid off the road. I woke up confused and in a panic I jerked the vehicle sending me through the windshield 50 feet in the air and landed head first on the side of the road.
I remember waking up in the desert alone. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything. Fortunately, an off-duty police officer found me, he saved me. I spent three months in a coma, followed by a semi-coma for three weeks. I had suffered a traumatic brain injury from the accident and was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I was alive. At the time, I couldn’t really internalize what this all meant for me.
My life seemed to stop after I suffered a traumatic brain injury. I couldn’t get it together and no one really understood what I was going through.
After moving around a lot and my wife’s death, I moved to Virginia with my parents for a fresh start and became a DJ. Being a DJ was a lot of fun but I still needed another job to support myself. I went job hunting every Thursday for three years with no success. I started to feel like that depressed 15-year-old boy, I was lost and incapable.
Then my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Department for Aging & Rehabilitative Services told me about Community Brain Injury Services and The Mill House, a clubhouse program for survivors of brain injury in Richmond, VA. I was hesitant at first thinking it would be like a daycare but I was surprised to find out it was the complete opposite. Community Brain Injury Services provides the resources and safe environment for survivors to return to a life of independence and fulfillment.
Jason pictured with members of the Advocacy Unit
Without a doubt, Community Brain Injury Services has changed my life for the better. After meeting other survivors at The Mill House and learning their stories, I started to realize my purpose. My purpose is to help people like me who have experienced a brain injury and similar struggles that come with it. I am currently working to become a certified Peer Support Counselor and by doing so I will be able to support other survivors in finding their purpose just like Community Brain Injury Services has done for me.
I’ve been coming to The Mill House for over three years and a lot of the members don’t realize this but the clubhouse is already providing “peer support”. Every day I watch someone give advice or lend a hand to another person, whether its preparing a meal in the kitchen unit or sending emails in the advocacy unit. We are teaching and learning from each other, enhancing our independence together.
If I had peer support and a safe environment like The Mill House after my accident, I believe my journey would have been easier. I wish I had someone there saying “If that doesn’t work, try this”. I am determined to be that person for my friends at The Mill House and The Denbigh House. I want all survivors of brain injury to understand that we are strong, courageous, and capable. It’s not about competing or meeting the expectations of others. It’s about setting goals and expectations that are possible for each individual.
Someone once told me that the “party doesn’t start until I get there”. With the help of Community Brain Injury Services, my family, and friends, I finally feel like I’m there. I have a purpose now, to become a Peer Support Counselor. The party has started. I welcome you to join our party by making a donation in support of our efforts. With your support, we can continue empowering people like me to find their purpose.
Make your mark on 2017 and join us in empowering survivors of brain injury today.
Mill House member