Toastmasters: how it has helped me.

Sometimes when I meet people for the first time they ask me about who I am and one of the ways in which I acknowledge and share is that I am a brain injury survivor.

When I was 15 years old, I was hit by a car. I don’t know what happened (and sometimes I am a bit scared to wake up one day and remember it all). I only have the knowledge of what happened from what my parents or family has told me. The only parts I remember are waking up in Sault Ste Marie General Hospital for 2 seconds and then waking up in a hospital in Sudbury (not sure which one).

Living with a brain injury can be frustrating at times. A lot of people have this misconception that in order to have a brain injury that has any effect on an individual’s life is that it has to be completely destabilizing or disruptive to a person’s life. Well, let me tell you, any kind of brain injury is destabilizing and disruptive to a person’s life.

I remember coming back to Sault Ste Marie and having to go the Emergency room for frequent migraines (I mean daily migraines because of the brain injury) the nurses who remembered me would look at me and say, “Oh my god! I remember you. You are one lucky girl!” I didn’t know how lucky I was until I started volunteering at the brain injury association.

I began volunteering at the brain injury association in Sault Ste Marie. I was helping them build their website. When I would go in and do my hours, they were very understanding of my situation, and that being that I was a brain injury survivor. I would see other brain injury survivors who came in and some of them had to have 24 hour assistance or some of them even had distinctive speech impediments as a result of their brain injury.

Just because you can’t see a disability does not mean that it should be given any more or less treatment than someone who has a disability that you can notice.

I struggled with a lot of things like word recall, word recollection or trying to understand the words I was reading. Nobody could see this. Trying to converse with others who didn’t understand was frustrating too. I would talk with others and sometimes be frustrated with not being able to get the words out of my mouth; then by the end of the conversation, sometimes the other person would be frustrated too because they didn’t understand what I was trying to say. By the end of it, I would just tell them, “Let me write you an email.”

For some reason the written word is a lot easier than the spoken word. When I try to speak verbally, the words in my head are sort of like a marquee that doesn’t stop and when I see a word that I want to use, I sometimes I can’t get it out of my head. And it just keeps on going by… Sort of like this:

Oh look at us! We are the words that Naomi does not want to use! Going. Slowly. Through. Her. Brain.
Oh look at us! More words! Going faster! Woot Woot! Fast words are cool but useless!
Oh look at us! Fasterrrrrrr wordssssss! Yesssss… we rock socks off–Naomi’s socks off! Fast words rule the world (or at least Naomi’s brain!)

Then I decided one school year that I would join Toastmasters. I heard about this through a counsellor. She said it also builds confidence. My new found disabilities ate away at my confidence. I joined it in Fanshawe College and then again when I was in Toronto.

Toastmasters for me helped quite a bit. I mean, I do still struggle with word recall but not as much. Toastmasters taught me to think on my feet and soon enough, with confidence again.

I recommend to anyone! And not just those with a brain injury or a disability 🙂

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