by Ian Hebeisen
Earlier in March, she appeared on an episode of the Making Headway Podcast, hosted by Mariah Morgan and Eryn Martin to talk about her brain injury experience and the path it led her on towards recovery and advocacy.
Amy received her TBI from a fall when she slipped on black ice on her driveway. She immediately knew something was wrong due to her throbbing head and blurry vision. She began suffering from vision problems like nystagmus and focusing issues, as well as other ailments including memory issues and fatigue. She started visiting doctors, neurologists, and chiropractors, each one diagnosing different problems, but none offering long-term solutions.
Chiropractic care helped realign her sternum and alleviated physical pain, and yoga improved her balance. But it wasn’t until two and a half years after her initial incident that she discovered functional neurology and began making steps towards recovery.
During this time, Amy wrote an article describing her struggles with her TBI, specifically the troubles she had getting her friends to understand what she was going through. “Tons of friends drifted away… it really, really hurt. They had been there for me when I had a cold, for these inconsequential sicknesses”. This article, featured on the Huffington Post, acted as a springboard for advocacy for Zellmer.
Since then, Amy got involved with several brain injury organizations and started attending Brain Injury Awareness Day. She also created the Brain Health Magazine, the Faces of TBI Podcast, and the Concussions Discussions video series. “Everybody has a different way of comprehending after brain injuries… so I really tried to target the different ways of inputting information.”
These various platforms are to help raise awareness about the TBI community. Mariah Morgan reflected during the interview that TBIs can come across as invisible. Even functional neurology seems rather unknown compared to normal neurology, which tends to focus on neurological diseases rather than brain injuries.
While Zellmer does encourage others to serve as an advocate for TBIs, she urges people to stay aware of their own limitations. “You know your body best,” says Zellmer, and advises against comparing recovery times to other people. “Some people might take a lot longer to get there… no two injuries are the same, no two recoveries are the same.”
A good place to start getting involved as an advocate is with nonprofits, or the Brain Injury Association of America. Most nonprofits are run by a handful of people, so be patient when reaching out. Don’t forget to take your time: raising awareness can start with something as simple as explaining your story to a listening ear.
Listen to “Making Headway” on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. To learn more, visit www.makingheadwaypodcast.com.
Ian Hebeisen graduated from Saint Mary’s University in May 2020, earning a degree in Literature with a Writing Emphasis. Now living in the Twin Cities, Ian writes comics, graphic novels, and poetry. In his spare time, he enjoys playing board games with his family.
Thank you to our amazing presenters as well as the cast and crew from Quiet Explosions. Shout-out to the hundreds of amazing humans who joined us for our live virtual event!
Below are the replay videos of the event (part 1 and 2) … Also. please help support our sponsors who made this day possible by clicking on their logos below! Be sure to grab your #NOTINVISIBLE care package and show your TBI pride all year long!
Billy McLaughlin, world class guitarist and Emmy award winning composer (among other accomplishments), almost lost his career due to focal dystonia. This neuromuscular disorder created a rift between his brain and his right hand, causing contortions and making it difficult to play the guitar. McLaughlin struggled to find a diagnosis, but upon learning about dystonia, began seeing specialists. He started relearning the guitar with his left hand, and is now an ambassador for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation.
In this podcast we discuss:
I was recently interviewed by Roshini Rajkumar on Minneapolis WCCO radio to kick off Brain Injury Awareness Month (March).
We briefly discussed my brain injury that occurred in February 2014, celebrating my 7-year brain-iversary.
We also discussed some of the common concussion myths such as:
You can listen to the interview here:
This anthology brings together 20 experts from around the country who share with you their advice and experience working with patients with brain injury.
As you explore the chapters, you’ll read about the numerous ways brain injury survivors can THRIVE in their recovery, often after traditional medicine left them struggling for answers. Additionally, you’ll learn about different symptoms associated with brain injury (headaches, dysautonomia, eye tracking, brain fog, dizziness, thyroid disorders, and more), as well as the importance of understanding your legal rights.
If you or your loved one has suffered a brain injury, this book offers you a wealth of information, but, more importantly, also offers you HOPE!
Never lose hope — no matter how many years since your injury occurred, or how many doctors have told you they can’t do anything for you. There truly are providers and professionals who understand exactly what you’re going through, and how to help you achieve the quality of life you’ve been seeking. Twenty of those caring professionals share their knowledge and experience in this book.
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Yoga is something that I have done since college (if you promise not to do math, I’ll simply say I’ve been doing yoga for 20+ years).
There was a period of time when I considered going through the teacher training program and becoming a yoga instructor but never had the time to get it done. Then the pandemic of 2020 hit, and was the perfect time to get my 200 hour YTT, as well as a trauma-informed yoga teacher certification, and yoga therapy certification.
Why, you ask?!
You don’t understand yoga’s true, full potential until you’ve gone through a life-changing physical trauma. Knowing what I know now, I have a deeper love and appreciate for yoga; a greater understanding of it’s powerful healing benefits.
In February of 2014 I slipped on a patch of black ice on an inclined driveway. I had zero warning as my feet went up into the air and my skull made full impact with the frozen asphalt. Amazingly, I walked away with my life — I am still in awe at the incredible resilience of one’s skull and how much of an impact it can actually take.
What I did sustain in the fall included: a severe concussion (later referred to as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI for short), major whiplash, c4/c5 damage in my neck, torn muscles in my neck, throat, abdomen, and chest, and a dislocated sternum.
Sounds like a load of fun, huh?
As we began addressing the physical injuries, I was unaware of the journey I was starting inside my head. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a very complicated and invisible injury, and one that many professionals (as well as friends and family) just don’t quite understand. I was frustrated when doctors wouldn’t listen to me, or would simply tell me that I will feel better in a few weeks. Every few weeks would start a new cycle of pain, grief, and anxiety.
After about 15 months of feeling pained, isolated, depressed, and anxious I reached out to a yoga instructor friend of mine.
Because of the dislocated sternum, I wasn’t able to lift my hands much higher than my shoulder and couldn’t take a full, deep breath. Because of the TBI I suffered from dizzy, balance, and neck mobility issues. I also noticed I would drag my right foot and my right arm did not move in motion with my walk — both of which are a neurological problem.
My dear friend helped me come up with FIVE yoga poses that I could do without feeling like I would fall over or causing me pain and discomfort.
Five poses. That was it.
They included: cat-cow pose, puppy dog (child’s) pose, tree pose (with the help of a chair for balance), eagle arm pose, and side twists while lying down.
After a few days of doing these five poses for about 10-15 minutes, I started noticing a difference. I was able to breathe deeper than I had since the accident, my flexibility was coming back (slowly), and my dizzy and balance issues were starting to bother me less. My range of motion was growing every single time I did yoga.
I gradually added in some of my favorite poses as I felt ready, for a single breath. I would go into down-dog pose and warrior pose just to see if I could. I would hold it for one breath, and then two. I eventually got brave enough to try side angel, which is my ultimate favorite post (and the one pictured above). I was thrilled that I was able to do it, at least with a block to assist me.
Now that I am just over seven years out from my accident, I am an advocate for TBI awareness, I am teaching yoga to a greater audience. I not only want to raise awareness, I want to help other survivors. Which brings me back to my point about teacher training. While you do not need an actual license/certificate to teach yoga, I wanted to go through proper training so that I know how to keep my students safe, while helping survivors find some comfort and peace in yoga, the way that I did.
Yoga for every BODY.
EVERYONE can do yoga, even those who think you have to be “flexible” to do it. Yoga is an individual activity, one in which you only do what you can. It can be modified to fit your injury, and some poses can even be done from a hospital bed. There are amazing benefits to doing yoga, and I hope that my experience can help another survivor decide to give it a try!
Join me for a gentle 20 minute ‘brain yoga’ practice … this gentle practice will help wake up your brain and body, and strengthen your balance and stability. Using contralateral and cross lateral movements we will help connect your body and brain in a unique, and gentle way.
At some point in our lives we all get anxious or feel stressed (give a personal example of a time that you feel overwhelmed). It’s not my intention to diagnose or take away from the importance of seeing a medical professional when needed, but I do think it’s important to talk about some quick and easy things that you can do every day to help relieve your stress and anxiety naturally.
When you’re stressed or anxious it can have some serious effects on your daily activity and mood. We’re all busy and we want to do anything that can help us with our day to day activities and improve your mood. If you’re stressed, it can cause muscle tension, headaches, over or under eating, fatigue, lack of motivation, sleeplessness…and honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So now you see how important it is to do anything within your power to help relieve your stress and anxiety so here’s my top tips of things that you can easily do at home to help you:
Let me know in the comments below which one of these you’re going to try today to help relieve your stress and anxiety!