It’s not too late to register for Barbara Stahura’s really terrific webinar series, “Journaling After Brain Injury.” Use the links to learn more and to follow an easy registration process. Unlock the power of words for your personal journey. You’ll be glad you did!
One of life’s great surprises is when an act that is perceived as small at first, grows into something much bigger and quite special. For some, this transformation can be utterly life-changing.
Little did writer, instructional course designer and facilitator, Barbara Stahura know that simply putting words in a journal nearly two decades ago would lead her down an unforeseen path and put her on an extraordinary personal journey, while helping others along the way.
When Stahura looks back to her first journaling experiences, she now realizes that it set the foundation for change and growth in some unexpected and poignant ways. It all started with a desire to heal from tough job situation.
“I began journaling in the early 1990’s when I felt trapped in an incredibly stressful corporate job,” says Stahura. “I knew I had to escape but had no idea what else I could do. At that point, most of what I did with my journal was vent and write about how miserable I was. What I didn’t know until later is that such an approach probably left me stuck for longer than I had to be. If I had written more about a better imagined future, for instance, I might not have suffered as much.
But I did eventually find my way out and liberated myself from corporate America to begin a freelance writing career that lasted for about 16 years. Along the way, I did journaling sporadically and learned about various techniques to use.”
And it was with those new and developing skills as a writer that provided a coping mechanism and a healing salve for Stahura when her personal life and the life of her family were dramatically altered.
“When a hit-and-run driver left my husband, Ken, with a serious traumatic brain injury, I again began journaling the very next day, often pages at a time,” shares Stahura. “I carried my journal everywhere, to the hospital and later the rehab hospital. During that whole terrible time—and for months afterward—I needed a safe place to let out my feelings and to keep a record of what was happening to Ken and me, individually and as a couple.”
At the time of her husband’s accident, the couple had only been married nine months; dealing with a new life reality, not to mention a new marriage, was nothing short of overwhelming. However, Stahura leaned on her trusty journal through these times and she learned a great deal.
“Journaling allows us to “listen” to ourselves in ways we can’t do when just thinking or talking, so that was also an important aspect of my journaling back then, as it still is today. When a life is turned upside down, as ours was, you need a way to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, so you don’t charge off and do something that might not serve you well. It’s also a fantastic way to work through confusing or painful situations. Journaling helped me do that. A counselor at that time diagnosed me with secondary traumatic stress and said journaling was one of the best things I could do for myself.”
Over time since the accident, Stahura continued in her journal and continued to marvel at the healing properties that writing brought to her personally. Yet, it was a simple comment from another person that got her to thinking a little differently about journaling. Stahura didn’t know it at the time, but her idea was about to take her down another path and that path would prove to be quite special.
“Journaling had been immensely helpful for me after Ken’s accident, and as we both recovered, I continued to write. Not as intensely or as often, but I kept at it,” says Stahura. “And several years after the accident, thanks to a comment from an acquaintance, I started thinking that journaling could be helpful for people with brain injury too. I was fortunate to be able to create a six-week journaling program called After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story and begin presenting it at a rehab hospital in Tucson, where we lived then. It became a regular program there, twice a year, from 2007 until the spring of 2011, after which Ken and I moved to Indiana. And now I present it, along with a separate program for family caregivers, four times a year at a rehab hospital here.”
Starting in 2009, Stahura took her ideas, skills and passion to help other families like hers, to the next level. She co-authored a book based on her program. The book, After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story was published that same year. Today, the book is used around the country by individuals, therapists and support groups. In 2011, Stahura completed a program at the Therapeutic Writing Institute and became a certified journal facilitator. She is also an instructor at the institute.
It was through Stahura’s work, perseverance and dedication that gave her the opportunity to meet many people and share her vision. She became acquainted with the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) several years ago at the Washington TBI Conference and it’s been a relationship that both Stahura and BEST cherish and hold special.
“I learned about BEST when I first spoke about journaling at the Washington TBI conference a few years ago,” recalls Stahura. “I had met Craig Sicilia online and through Brain Injury Radio, and then at the conference, I met (BEST Founder and Chief Visionary Officer) Penny Condoll and (BEST Executive Director) Gloria Kraegel. We got to talking and decided that journaling would be a good addition to the BEST lineup of programs. They offer so many great programs and methods of support for people with brain injury and their families. It’s a fantastic organization! I wish we had something like that here in Indiana—and in every state.”
In fact, Stahura is teaming up with BEST to offer a terrific webinar series to help explore the world of telling one’s own story and the power of writing. It’s a series of three one-hour webinars called Journaling for Well-Being After Brain Injury. People will experience the power of journaling and will discover how short, simple writing exercises can help them use acceptance as a springboard to the future, discover and celebrate positive aspects of their life, maintain hope and gratitude, remain (or become) resilient, move forward, and more.
The fee is $49 per session or $99 for all three. For those who purchase all three sessions, they will also receive a copy of After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story as a special gift. The dates for the webinars for 2014 are September 18, October 23, and November 13, at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The webinar series will also be archived for those who can’t be available at those times.Registration is just a click away through the BEST website. Click HERE to start the process.
Stahura assures participants that all are welcome to participate in the webinar.
“No writing or journaling experience is necessary! And you don’t have to be a “good writer.” There are no rules for journaling. I tell people in my groups that whatever they write is perfect.”
I think the most important elements of journaling are to be as honest as you can and to establish a regular practice of journaling. Since your journal is private, you can learn to be as honest as you can in its pages. If you’re not used to being honest with yourself, it can take time. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your journal will become a powerful tool for self-exploration and self-understanding. It helps to make a commitment to a regular practice, even two or three days a week, because that establishes a positive habit as well as an ongoing record of your life.”
For additional questions or more information on the upcoming webinars or how to register, please contact BEST.
Monday Kick-starter Quote of the Week: A simple, but powerful quote, as today marks the last day of Brain Injury Awareness month. Thank you all for everything you do and being a voice to create awareness, not just this special month, but every day going forward!
Today’s hero is an innovator and forward-thinker who sees a bright technological future for not only
individuals with brain injury, but for an entire community of people who could use extra support for
their life and work endeavors.
In fact, she thinks we’ve really only just begun.
Meet Kathy Moeller, founder of Cognitive Harmonics, Inc., an organization that offers robust life and
work management systems specifically designed for people with brain injury. The BRAIN BOOK ©
System and My Bionic Brain © is a specially customized life/manager/day planner that provides tools
and resources to meet the needs of individuals with brain injury. Both of these entities are considered
learning systems that teaches specific skills that compensate for issues that are most commonly involved
in brain injury. These skills and tools have a real world, real life, day-to-day application that creates
confidence, empowerment and success.
According to Moeller, in essence, her systems can be seen as a cognitive prosthetic. Whether the device
is electronic or on paper, it functions like an external memory, customizable to each person’s experience
Moeller created the programs after her own brain injury 24 years ago in a seriousl car accident.
Moeller’s vehicle collided head on with a bus. Moeller obtained a traumatic brain injury, broken
bones and other injuries as a result. When she emerged from a coma, Moeller was instantly met with
“I lost my reading ability, I couldn’t dress myself and I was angry and agitated,” shares Moeller. “I was
horribly confused and disoriented.”
After her hospitalization, Moeller went to a brain injury rehabilitation center in Concord, California,
where she received five months of extensive residential care and support, 24/7. Nine more months
followed of outpatient treatment. Post-treatment, Moeller, a marketing executive from New York prior
to her injury, decided to return to work.
“I assumed I could go back to work. I started back as a receptionist. That didn’t work very well,” says
More jobs followed as well as more increasing frustration. While in the midst of her journey, she spent
one year putting a personal brain book together to help her balance, manage and support her work and personal
“It was a like a daytimer on steroids,” says Moeller. “It had memory notes, recommendations and
problem identification, like noise and light. The brain book helped to clarify and verify my experience
and gave supportive tools to help.
Moeller shared her brain book with various organizations; the system was met with enthusiasm, intrigue
and huge support. Moeller’s peers reached out to her to help them create their own brain books, using
her model. Her methods have been shared with hundreds of people and has been formally taught since
the early 1990’s.
In the mid-nineties, Moeller formed Cognitive Harmonics, Inc., to make her system available to those
who needed support; in 2010, along several key collaborative partners, her system is now a robust and
sophisticated iPad app.
Through books, software and the app, Moeller’s products maintain a similar and important thread—all
are individually driven and applicable to each person’s unique and/or complex needs.
Moeller is also a proponent of the peer support network in using the products. She’s noticed that people
who are using the tools are calling one another peer for assistance or support. Moeller sees this kind of
connection amongst peers instrumental in creating success and empowerment.
Moeller’s products have been used by vocational rehabilitation centers in multiple states along with
a number of VA groups and centers. It’s also available to individuals in the private sector. As Moeller
presses on with growing the products technologically and creating even more innovation, she is finding
that the system is applicable to the autism community as well as other conditions.
To Moeller, it’s just the start.
“With technology improving exponentially, we have in all of our futures the ability to solve unsolvable
problems,” explains Moeller. “It is within our grasp; we just haven’t put all of the pieces together yet.
We need to keep pushing forward, based on what individuals need and want.”
“Anything is possible. It is going to happen.”
Being near the ocean is a special experience for many people. Perhaps it’s that breath of really fresh air; the comfort of a soothing cool ocean breeze; the gentle sound and ebb and flow of the water. Coupled with a sense of wonder, the ocean brings past, present and future all into a place of appreciation and profound learning.
Brain Energy Support Team member and TBI survivor, Barb George is much like the ocean: special, a breath of fresh air, comforting, gentle and at the ready to appreciate things and learn from them.
The fact that George actually lives in Grays Harbor County, near the sea, is no surprise; it just fits in more ways than one.
George began life in Burien, Washington. As an infant, she and her family moved east and found themselves in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for a number of years, before returning to the Tacoma, Washington area. There were more moves: Oregon, Georgia and Southwestern Washington. However, three years ago, Grays Harbor beckoned.
“We chose Grays Harbor, after realizing I felt better when on the coastal areas,” explains George. “The climate and the lack of barometric pressure changes has been a drastic change for the better for me.”
George and her husband Jim, welcome the feel of small coastal town life. The couple enjoys getting involved and being active in their adopted and much loved community. Both take part in the local seaport, Habitat for Humanity and on other shore clean-up teams. Barb George also works for a group that does wild life rescue and other things to support the environment.
While George looks with an eye to the future, particularly with her community involvement, she also lovingly enjoys the past. She and her husband own a 100 year old home that houses George’s collections of antiques and vintage toys. The couple also enjoys re-purposing items; everything from furniture to vintage trailers.
But if you really want to see George smile, ask her about her family. Family means the world to George, especially spending lots of time with her six beloved grandchildren, something she positively adores.
“I have four children. Jim and I blended our family 20 years ago,” says George. “We have six grandchildren, ages six months to 16 years.”
George also loves her BEST family. She has been involved with BEST for a little over three years and serves as the board secretary and she is the facilitator of the Grays Harbor Brain Injury Support Group that meets each week. After initially meeting BEST founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Penny Condoll, along with BEST Executive Director, Gloria Kraegel, George felt really good about their mission and vision for BEST.
“I feel very strongly about BEST being supportive to our community; and my heart truly lies in the rural area,” says George. “My accident happened nearly 10 years ago. I was alone on our mountain in Southwestern Washington State, and (I) found myself terribly frustrated. It hurt that I was in such pain, but not able to find a group.”
“BEST came into my life after many treks through the internet. I belonged to several online groups, and am still involved in some; but (I) found that the internet can be fickle in emotional situations sometimes. I needed face to face contact and it just was not available to me.”
Support was critical to George in the past, just as it is today. She is a double TBI survivor (she was head-butted by a horse in the summer of 2004 and had a bad fall a mere six months later, injuring the same area of her head). George has short term memory issues, aphasia and fatigue. The brain injuries brought about a number of life changes.
“I spent a number of years in a darkened room, alone and in pain. I had to close my company after my accident,” shares George.
“Since moving to the harbor, I have been able to go back to work 3 days a week, with a supportive boss. The pace is fast, but my co- workers help me with grace. What I have learned is balance. Well, I am continuing to learn balance! I truly feel that my accident happened because I was juggling too many hard things at once. What I have learned is to lean on others and not think for a moment I can do it all.”
As George’s journey continues and as she continues to help and support others on their personal journeys, her words sum up the BEST experience.
“I feel that the BEST group is vital to growing awareness about TBIs. Penny and Gloria, as well as all the other wonderful people, are so bright and know how to bring out the BEST in others!”
Have a BEST story you’d like to share? Contact Kim T. at firstname.lastname@example.org.