This week’s quote, features the “apple of our eye,” our beautiful BEST adopted apple tree at the The Curran Apple Orchard Park in University Place, WA!
Today is one special day indeed! There are two cool things happening. First, if you are a biological, adoptive, pet or honorary dad, we wish you all the very BEST for Father’s Day! Next, it’s the first day of summer! Hooray! Enjoy the beautiful summer season from your friends at BEST!
Finding and sharing our voices is an extraordinary and universal human experience.
A voice can breathe life and expression into our personal stories, help support and advocate for ourselves and others and create powerful conversations and connections.
Our voices are the building blocks to understanding, change, progress and hope.
Puget Sound resident, Y. Monet Miller knows a little something about having a voice.
The New Jersey native spent well over a decade as an advocate for children with special needs. She then moved into work with the Washington National Education Association, conducting workshops for the state’s union and providing advocacy for union rights and public schools. Her career further expanded into an assignment with the National Education Association. Her vocation took her on the road, facilitating workshops and conducting public speaking engagements throughout the nation. In her spare time, she provided personal consulting and inspiration for her friends.
Talk about having a voice, indeed.
Miller was self-described back then as an energetic, motivated and high-spirited woman, who lived life to the fullest and was at the peak of her career.
In October of 2012, Miller’s life changed in ways she would never have imagined.
Miller was struck in the head with a metal door. As she describes it, it was the beginning of a period of time of being “lost.”
With no family in the Seattle-area, she found herself going through her medical ordeal alone.
It was not easy.
“I had lots of headaches,” says Miller. “At first, I wasn’t diagnosed properly and the doctors ignored the symptoms. I found myself going through the process and taking lots of pills.”
Soon after, Miller began to have slurred speech and lost her verbal fluency. That change, in particular, was especially frightening.
Eventually, Miller was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and a traumatic brain injury. Memory issues, continued speech difficulties and headaches were overwhelming. That was the beginning of a long odyssey of challenges. For days, weeks and months, the headaches were constant, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours. Feeling isolated and alone led to depression.
“I lived like a ‘vampire,’” shares Miller. “For two years, I stayed in the house. Lights and people were just too hard. I’d wake up each day and feel completely disconnected.”
However, one day, Miller received the gift of hope from a powerful and unexpected source.
She saw a vision of her grandmother and the words that her grandmother uttered in that vision, changed her life.
“Don’t lose your God-given gift—your voice.”
The impact of that vision and those words were profound.
“I enjoyed talking,” says Miller. “It’s 2015 and it’s time to make a change and take on a new approach. I needed to ask the question: who am I? I also wanted to take back the dignity and self-worth I lost with my injury. I realized how alone I felt and that others must feel this way, too.”
Miller’s first stop on her journey forward was taking a look back at some powerful family history.
As her grandmother’s presence filled her heart, soul and mind, she decided to go back even further and embrace the stories of the strong history, legacy and faith of her other female ancestors.
Inspired by these women, Miller created a “map” of her journey and joined a brain injury support and social group through the University of Washington. The support group had a profound influence on her.
“We shared our stories and provided a system of support and resources for each other,” says Miller. “The group help ground me and forced me to accept. I was forced to find out about this new person, ‘me’ and to tell the truth and have some ‘real talk.’”
Miller also found herself more motivated than ever. As she was finding her new voice, she was equally as passionate about helping others find their voices, too. She also wanted to provide a voice and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Today, Miller has dedicated herself to creating a platform to give voice to those who live with brain injury and their families; she’s eager to use her voice to give back. She’s looking to speak in front of the community, particularly to those in the medical community to help build a bridge of understanding.
She’s also motivated to help anyone who needs her.
What would Miller say to others who are coping with brain injury and who could use some support? Her message is straightforward.
“I understand the fear, feeling like a hostage and hitting rock bottom,” explains Miller. “I know what it’s like to peel away the things that hurt. When I see them, I see me.
I’m a testimonial and believer that we’re gonna be okay. We might be the person we were from before, but we will be a better person.
Know your resources. Have faith. We’re going to thrive in time. Give in to being victorious, not a victim. Be vigilant in learning about your own needs and self-care and make adjustments and network.”
And the final thing Miller would leave people with? A very simple phrase, which encapsulates her vision.
If you are interested in contacting Y. Monet Miller, please contact Kim at email@example.com for more information.
BEST Board Vice President, caregiver and guest blogger, Maggie DePuye-Phillips is back with another terrific installment of one of our featured blog columns, Caregiver’s Corner. Today, Maggie takes us on the road with a recap of the recent annual caregiver’s conference in the Puget Sound region as well as some great tips, information and resources.
Don’t go through life, grow through life.
Wow, what a profound quote and fitting for what I am about to share with you.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual “Challenges in Caregiving: Giving Care, Taking Care“ caregiver’s conference, sponsored by the DSHS Aging & Long-Term Support Administration, Pierce County Community Connections and Full Life. I always look forward to this conference as a way to recharge my batteries, be reminded of self-awareness for self-care and learn new strategies to become better at what I do as a caregiver.
And once again, this conference did not disappoint me.
The keynote speaker, one of my favorites, Wendy Lustbader, a well-respected social worker and an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, School of Social Work, spoke about the importance of caring for the needs of the spirit when caregiving. Referencing two of the many books she wrote, “Taking care of Aging Patients” and “Life Gets Better,” she recounts several anecdotes of her encounters with clients she has worked with over the years of her career. She defines spirituality as having three “dances:” perspective, vulnerability and meaning/purpose.
Ms. Lustbader went on to explain that when it comes to our loved one’s own spirituality, we are to speak in their verbiage (God, Lord, etc…) as a way to “be” with him/her. To gain perspective, receive and listen to connect your loved one with his/her own spirituality. Furthermore, recognize your loved one’s vulnerability and redefine their purpose in life by making changes to the environment, which in turn will uplift his/her spirits and help see that life does get better, even at the end.
So, with that, I have been enlightened and inspired to not only look within, but stay true to my own spirit, and be more conscientious when I am caring for my loved one and help his spirit take flight! After all, every act of kindness grows the spirit and strengthens the soul!
At last, summer is here! I am really excited because I now have taken up another “hobby!” Gardening! We created five raised garden beds in our backyard and planted a variety of vegetables and fruit several weeks ago. I am now seeing the fruits of our labor as sprouts have come through the soil and some of the starters have flowers on them. I am up at the crack of dawn and out the door, watering the beds and my flowers.
Surprisingly, although it’ added work to my daily routine as a caregiver, I truly look forward to this time. Gardening is truly a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. Gardening also grows the spirit!
And along with summer, comes travel plans, which can put additional stress on the caregiver when making preparations. From my caregiver toolkit, here are some tips to follow:
1. Plan early! When you put in careful thought into your planning, you are more apt to guarantee a successful trip!
2. Be aware of your loved one’s strengths and limitations to determine whether he/she can manage the trip. It does not make sense to take someone to a crowded place if he is likely to become antsy or has challenges being around many people. Too much stimuli can also be frustrating for your loved one so keep that in mind when planning various places to visit such as museums or entertainment parks.
3. The duration of your trip is another factor to consider. Prolonged travel may be disruptive to the loved one when structure and routine is important to his/her well-being.
4. Take into consideration how you will be getting there and where you will be staying. Remember, many airlines and lodging facilities offer accommodations for travelers with disabilities so take advantage of their services. It will make it a lot easier on you and your loved one when little or no stress is present.
5. Lastly, plan activities that will benefit both you and your loved one. Be flexible with change, keep your sense of humor and laugh at all the situations that may happen. In turn, they become precious memories of your travels together.
Information & Resources
Looking for some caregiver education or support for family caregivers? Check out this resource, here.
July 20th-July 26th: 8th Annual Brain Injury Camping Experience at Lake Skookum, Eastern Washington, sponsored by TBI Survivor Network. For more information, click here.
August 9th-15th: BEST Camp at Dash Point State Park in Western Washington, sponsored by BEST. Check it out, here.
Here are a couple new books on caregiving that you may want to read over the summer:
“The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey by Nancy KrisemanHope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit” by Peter Rosenberger
Whether it is gardening, traveling, camping or just enjoying the warmth of the sunny days ahead this summer, remember to keep your spirit alive by feeding it with light, energy and love. Let me leave you with this:
Kind hearts are the garden, kind thoughts are the roots, kind words are the blossoms, kind deeds are the fruits.