Survival. Are you a survivor? Survival’s crucial. It means we make it. We make it through something others don’t. There’s some kind of glory in being a survivor. We wear our survival like a badge of honor. We join with other survivors to celebrate our survival, to celebrate our making it and remembering those that did not. Entire networks and organizations form because that’s how people are: we need to feel community with others who’ve shared our experience. Holocaust Survivor. Cancer Survivor. Abuse Survivor. Trauma Survivor. Disaster Survivor. MRSA Survivor. The list goes on and on. In the case of some survivor groups, it breaks down. If it’s a natural disaster, they break down by the name (Hurricane Katrina Survivor) or type of disaster (Earthquake Survivor.) Cancer-Survivors groups are as numerous as the types of cancer we know: Breast-Cancer Survivor, Prostate-Cancer Survivor, Lung-Cancer Survivor. Whatever kind of human disaster may hit you, if you make it through, there’s a survivor group you can join.

Being a survivor’s not a bad thing. Living through something that took others’ lives is indeed something to be grateful for and celebrate. Surviving disaster isn’t something you take lightly and it’s with you for the rest of your life. Why did you survive? Was it luck? Chance? Does it mean you’re smarter, stronger, more able--or just luckier than the ones who didn’t make it? Maybe it means someone else smarter, stronger, more able--cared enough to carry you through. Whatever reason you survived--you did. You made it. Give thanks and live. Live life like it’s worth it, live life with gusto, live life with the understanding that life is fragile and deserves respect and hopefully you’ve learned something through the experience. Something you can share that will help others survive.

I made it through brain injuries. Not mild ones, but so bad they said it was “forever.” They said I’d never heal, that I’d be disabled for the rest of my life. Three weeks after the accident that caused them--I was certified blind. The brain injuries took my sight, held my thoughts and knowledge hostage, disjointed my emotions, made my body shut down and rebel. Within two-three years, I had so many secondary diagnoses--the ones that get diagnosed after the first is determined that causes all those other things to come along--one of my doctors told me--the blind woman--that my file stacked two feet high. MCS. CFS. FM. COPD. Another list that goes on. When the brain shuts down, the body stops working and you never know which parts of the body will begin to fail. Doctors don’t know. Diagnosis is a game of observation, trial and error, and guess work--and that’s all a real part of Science.

Today I can SEE. After being blind for more than 5 years--the ability to SEE’s an incredible gift I appreciate and I celebrate it every minute of every day. I am WELL. I celebrate that too.

But I don’t call myself a Survivor. I am a Victor.

Surviving’s just fine. It’s good. It’s important. It means you make it--you live. I wanted to do more than just make it, just live through the disaster. I wanted to live through it and get over it--and take back a life interrupted by a disaster I was just an innocent bystander to. A terrible disaster that took years of my life, probably killed at least one that I know of by now, damaged others, and could have left me disabled, dependent, and drugged for the rest of my life.

I fought brain injuries and I won. The battles were not easy and it took guts and strength and luck and skill. It took people who cared enough to carry me through the worst parts.
It’s true I had more knowledge and training than most people do about the human body and brain and how to research medical knowledge--both alternative and allopathic. I knew how to find answers and how to find the cutting edge. It’s true I was lucky.

But did I win because I was more able? When it happened to me, I was a lifelong artist of many media and a peak performer--by choice, by training, by lifestyle, by profession. I was not more able--I just had the right tools. And the idea of dependency and disability forever was not a choice I was willing to make. So I fought. I survived. And I won.

I am a Brain-Injury Victor. No one gave me a medal or a parade. Don’t want one, don’t need one. Having sight again and my good brain back is glory enough. I’d be happy to live my life in peace and quiet and enjoy the gift of feeling Well Again. But with 300,000-plus young ones who’ve served in war and returned to be told what I was: disabled for the rest of your life--I now take up the banner to share what I’ve learned, and I invite other Brain-Injury Victors to join me and put off the peace and quiet and rest we deserve for just a little while. Until there are so many more of us Victors to take up the banner and prove to the world: Brain injuries don’t have to be forever.

Author's Bio: 

Artist-Activist-Dancer-Performance Artist, Lifelong Peak Performer & Creative Peak Performance/Natural Wellness Expert, Inspirational Motivational Speaker, & author of:
Zeeva:the Art of Wellness the True Story of How Z Got Well Again and You Can Too!

Decimated by an acute toxic chemical exposure from an illegal installation of legal industrial chemicals near her studio in 1998 and given up for a "permanently blind, permanently brain-damaged, permanently disabled" goner ready for a board and care by the MD's--Z used all her skills and knowledge, learned talking computers to get more, practiced the Arts she'd spent her life learning and teaching--including what's now called a "Wellness Lifestyle," found cutting-edge Science, and got Well Again anyway.

During her blind years,as she began to get Well, she became the Getty Center's only blind docent, touring sighted visitors and challenging them to see what she could not, performed ancient Greek myths as part of a Storytelling team at the Getty, sat on the board of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's Arts, Aesthetics, & Culture committee, opened and was Creative Director of a Body-Mind-Spirit fitness studio in LA’s Arts District, and became an online Natural Wellness personality--sharing knowledge and inspiring others. Then she got her sight back!

Today, she is creating Art again at Helicon-in-the High-Desert, writing Zeeva's FREE Wellness Weekly, & blogging on topics that range from Art & Science, Empowerment, Inspiration, Consciousness, 21st Century ChangeMakers, Staying Well, Living Well, & Being Well in the 21st Century, Beating the Odds and BEATING Brain Injuries--Naturally at