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How I Gained 'Superpowers' From My Brain Injury

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I am just being silly here, right? How can a brain injury give us superpowers?

Well, let’s be honest; a brain injury is not going to turn us into a Superman. We all know that Superman got his powers because his ship crash-landed on Earth, where the yellow sun made him superhuman, physically.

I’m also not talking about the documented cases of a someone’s brain injury “unlocking” amazing abilities. There are people who have become math geniuses or incredible artists, a man who can run for miles, barefoot and in shorts, on snow-covered roads in subzero weather. Others have become musical virtuosos or skilled painters as a result of their traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is called “acquired savant syndrome,” and although it has been studied, not all that much is known about it. These savant syndrome cases are extreme.

I am speaking to the vast majority of us brain injury survivors who must find a way to fight our way through pain and depression to success. We are “Joe Average,” who lived “normal,” everyday lives until one day we experienced a TBI and life changed. We are the people who are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of our lives.

Finding Our Skill

I, for one, have approached my brain injury since day one by trying to find out how my TBI “made me special.” That was a far better way to approach it than, “how my TBI messed me up.”

Many of us who have experienced a TBI are consumed with thoughts of “What I can’t do anymore.” I remember when I was in the rehab hospital learning how to walk, and my therapist — who was holding my belt loop — asked me: “Aren’t you amazed at what you can do?” My answer still echoes in my mind, “No. I’m only amazed at what I can’t do.”

This kind of thinking, while driving me forward, probably would not allow me to unlock my true capabilities. To do that, I needed to be open to the changes I had experienced so I could “use” what happened for my benefit.

That is what we all need to do — unlock and expand upon our capabilities to find an untapped skill. That’s what I mean when I say, “finding a superpower.”

No skill or power is going to fall from the sky and hit you on the head, saying, “Here I am!” A light bulb may go off in your head at one point, and you might have a revelation about what direction to take your life in, but after that, it’s all dedication and hard work.

Hard work?

Finding and perfecting your skill, above all, involves the hard work of learning how to focus. Now, having the ability to focus can be a difficult thing after brain injury, and you have to put yourself in the proper frame of mind just be able to learn how to focus, so it’s not easy.

For me, that involved blocking out distractions, making my life as simple as possible and limiting unnecessary interactions. I don’t clutter my mind with things I don’t feel are necessary. In some ways, I artificially hold myself back, but that is so I can move forward on other things I think are important. Think of it as though you’re in college: you’re studying for a degree in Brain Injury and it is taking all your energy and time.

The power we want to learn to focus on is the power your brain injury has given you: to be who you are. We have been through a life-altering experience and have gained an insight and wisdom that can’t be taught.

Gradually, as we learn to focus, we gain the power to be who we are, to trust ourselves and the insight we have gained and cultivated. That is what makes us super.

Insight is something that often takes time, building in the back of our minds as we strive to live a fulfilled life. Most likely, it will come when you are up looking in other directions and just living your life. It comes with a belief in yourself and finding acceptance that, “my life looks different now.”

This is not simple. It’s work to feel comfortable in your own skin — comfortable enough to trust both yourself and the insights you have, but you have earned it. Yes, you have.

Know yourself and look for the things that make you super.

Thanks for reading,


Follow this journey at

Getty Images photo via cyano66

Originally published: January 8, 2017
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