Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kintsugi

Whoa whoa whoa January got away from me. Writing is still a good thing, this blog still exists, Nuku’Alofa is the capital of Tonga-a small dot in the ocean- and I have some cool news to finally share with you all.

This is the one I am really excited about, proud of, and genuinely honored to be able to offer some of my experiences to. There is a type of pottery in Japan that also serves as a philosophy for dealing with the challenges and hardships that life presents. Kintsugi is the art of taking broken pottery and piecing it back together by filling the cracks and bonding the art back together with beautiful gold or silver lacquers and, as a result, creating a new and vibrant piece all together. The kintsugi ideals convey that one does not have to live by replacing or throwing away their struggles, but instead allow one to look at those challenges with awe, reverence, and restoration. Out of concrete grew a rose.

It may be a reach, but I have always wanted something good to come out of all that’s happened. I, on many occasions, didn’t want to be the “crash guy” and in direct correlation, didn’t want to be the guy that only talked about that. This is more than crashing. I’ve been through a lot, seen and understand a lot, and want to make an impact. I may not be a broken ornamental dish, but I think that this represents the start of my kintsugi. The beginnings of something that I can look back on and feel pride about its purpose and mission. “The gold-filled cracks of a once-broken item are a testament to its history”.

Shortly after my accident, and after my, maybe month long (?), screen embargo was lifted I spent many hours researching head injuries in athletes and spent time planning my eventual comeback. My googling (it’s a real verb now, I swear!) led me to Olympic level snowboarder Kevin Pearce. Kevin was the *other* name in snowboarding, besides Shaun White, leading up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Kevin had a horrific accident in training, suffered a severe TBI, and just like that had his life change. Due to his notoriety in the sport he had his whole recovery documented on camera, which led to the film The Crash Reel. I watched this documentary during my recovery and was heavily affected by it. Our injuries and hospitalizations were eerily similar, but beyond that, our families were both heavily involved in our new lives. Seeing how Kevin’s family members were impacted made me so much more aware of what my loved ones went through, and this film played a very large part in my decision to not return to professional cycling. To see things from a different eye than my own helped to compartmentalize just what’s important in life.

Kevin and his family started the LoveYourBrain foundation- an awareness organization with the aim to humanize traumatic brain injuries and their unfortunate regularities- and I am incredibly honored to say that I reached out to them with willingness and hope to be able to offer my reach within the cycling world to help spread their message of brain health and brain injury awareness. As of 2016, I will be riding the long Gran Fondos and competing in endurance mountain bike races while wearing a kit that will represent LoveYourBrain.

As a victim of a severe TBI, I went through some pretty trying moments while recovering. These are easy to find and notice: I had to relearn how to walk; I wasn’t allowed to shower without supervision because I couldn’t steady myself enough to not have a risk of falling; I would get heavily lost on walks down the hallway and would stubbornly try to convince my caretakers that I would be fine on my own. I wore a belt around my waist, like a leash, for multiple weeks to allow whoever was tasked with walking with me something to grab onto when I would start to fall.  I could go on.

What isn’t easy to see is where I am now. I’m a different dude than August 23 of 2014. For one, I eat regular human portion sizes now. I also get incredibly agitated by people who take risks. I can’t be in over stimulating environments- too many things to focus on causes my head to go into a crazy spin that feels almost as if I’m inside of a dryer, but instead of the heat it’s static electricity. Driving in traffic is now one of the more stressful things that I encounter, and big groups are not awesome anymore- I get incredibly overwhelmed at stadiums, concerts and noisy restaurants. I used to be very good at remembering people’s names, but now a person may as well tell me there name and 25 others and I'll try my best to use my memory techniques to remember it. My whole life I was an avid reader and I’ve only been able to complete three books in the past 1.5 years. I love TV, but since 8/24/14 I haven’t been able to finish House of Cards because an hour-long show is too much to focus on. I’ve seen less than 5 movies since my life changed, as following a plot line for 90 minutes is fatiguing and very difficult. There is more.

LoveYourBrain aims to help victims of TBI and their families know that they are not alone. I am incredibly fortunate to have had the support from my family, Marissa, and my friends and many people do not have that. A TBI introduces a new person to the world, and it doesn’t just affect the victim, but everyone they are connected to. LoveYourBrain inspires progression, encourages healthy options, and offers ways to strengthen your brain.


Here’s where it’s super cool. It’s not just for victims. I’m not writing about and representing LYB because I want you to stop doing anything where you could hit your head. I’m representing this organization because I want you to know that hitting your head is more than just “ringing your bell” (I hate that expression!) and that there are things you can do before, during, and after a “knock on the dome” (that one too!) to help to really love your brain. I want to use my story to help inspire and provide hope for others who will encounter a brain injury in their lifetime. My kintsugi.

There will be more this year, but please ask me any question you have about brain injuries, big or small. Watch the movie The Crash Reel to see a small bit of what I and other victims of severe TBI have gone through. Sleep. Just be generally happy. If you have a small crash and hit your head, see a doctor. If you have a tiny crack in your helmet after a crash, get yourself checked out. If you have a tiny crack in your helmet, and you didn’t crash, get a new helmet! What you do now helps you in the future. Let’s talk.

Love your brain. LoveYourBrain.

8 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed reading this :)

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  3. And yet, you have written a beautiful, thoughtful piece on what has happened and what you've been through. Thank you for this. And thank you for sharing info on LYB. As someone who's taken a few good hits during my racing career, I'll definitely check them out.

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  4. And yet, you have written a beautiful, thoughtful piece on what has happened and what you've been through. Thank you for this. And thank you for sharing info on LYB. As someone who's taken a few good hits during my racing career, I'll definitely check them out.

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  5. This is awesome Ian. And you are awesome! If there is any way we can help from Colorado let us know! -Steph & Geoff

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  6. Great piece, Ian! Really grateful for the positivity and wisdom you're sharing with others. Thank you for being a beautiful part of the LoveYourBrain family.

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