Come Run with Me for Brain Injury, May 19!

3 years ago, I wasn’t sure whether I’d ever return to normal life. Shortly after my brain injury, while I was still wallowing around trying to find proper medical care, one doctor told me not to run for 3 months.

Well, that turned out to be a bit of an understatement. It was 2 years before I could even attempt to run again because my head would hurt too much when I did.

Helllloooooo, migraine that hadn’t ever left in the first place!

February 23, 2015, two days after my injury. Completely thrashed.

That was back before I understood the importance of blood flow and exercise for healing mild traumatic brain injury.

“One possible contributor to sustained symptoms may be compromised cerebrovascular regulation. In addition to injury-related cerebrovascular dysfunction, it is possible that prolonged rest after mild traumatic brain injury leads to deconditioning that may induce physiologic changes in cerebral blood flow control that contributes to persistent symptoms in some people. There is some evidence that exercise training may reduce symptoms perhaps because it engages an array of cerebrovascular regulatory mechanisms.” Cerebrovascular regulation, exercise, and mild traumatic brain injury

For a long time I struggled mightily to even get out of bed and simply walk around my house. Eventually I graduated to walking around my yard, my neighborhood, and then the gym. I don’t know if I could have gone faster than I did, and I’m certainly glad I wasn’t out trying to pound the pavement to work out. I was literally working with all the energy I had at my disposal and didn’t yet know how to manage it or create more of it. But if I had known how important it was to get up and moving and getting the blood flowing, I think my recovery might have been even faster.

Even today I still don’t run on a track and mostly stick to stationary bikes or walking. One day, I hope to have a much higher level of fitness.

Knitting while biking at the gym, for extra brain challenge.

Thanks to Dr. Johnson at Amen Clinics, I learned the power of progressive exercise and also how different types of exercise target different parts of the brain. My work at the gym and in yoga class has helped me get even more of my brain back over the past year. Still, I go through periods where I am extremely sedentary, which I know is to my detriment.

That’s why I’ve decided to participate in the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah 5k Run, Walk, Roll. It gives me a fitness goal to work toward, even though I don’t plan to run the whole thing, and a way to support those who are fighting the good fight.

Brain Injury Alliance of Utah is a great local organization that offers services to brain injury survivors for FREE. If you’ve had a brain injury, you know how darn expensive it is to recover properly. If you’ve had a brain injury, you also know how important it is to have a community that knows what you’ve gone through. BIAU knows the power of both.

BIAU runs a free yoga class that they also livestream through Facebook (really important if you can’t leave your house!). Even though I’ve only been to one of their classes, I was impressed. They offer brain-based education before each session, so you can learn more about the brain, and it was great to be among other people going through the same recovery process. Having an understanding of how your brain works has been vital for my recovery. You become your own advocate and your own health-problem solver, looking for new treatments and making sure you’ve looked down every avenue for help.
I wish I’d been able to take advantage of their statewide resource facilitation appointment, where they help survivors and their families get to the proper resources for their recovery. This would have been hugely helpful all along but especially in my early days of recovery since I had no idea where to go to get proper help.

Come celebrate my brain injury recovery and help me pay it forward!

I’m running this race with my family and friends as a celebration of how far I’ve come. I’m hoping to raise awareness of brain injury and support those who are going through the recovery process. I hope I’ll see you there!

Join my team by registering for the event. Add TAOS (which stands for The Art of Striving) as your team and you save 10% on your registration fee of $35.


More articles on exercise following TBI.

Aerobic Exercise Following TBI (, Internet article)

Research: Aerobic exercise shows promise for treatment of wounded warriors with mild traumatic brain injury (Internet article)

Exercise after Traumatic Brain Injury, from the American Physical Therapy Association, Section on Neurology (PDF)

My brain injury isn’t a joke

Societally, we’ve seen so many “mild” head injuries portrayed as humorous plot points that we’re numb to taking it seriously.

Off the top of your head, I bet you can think of at least one movie or TV show that portrays a head injury. Probably even more.

How about that scene in Parks and Recreation where Andy Dwyer sneezes while hanging his gold record and smacks his head on the wall? Because it’s Chris Pratt, his visit to the doctor is pretty hilarious.

Screenshot from YouTube.

Dr. Harris: So, Andy, tell me what happened.

Andy: I was reading an encyclopedia and I tripped, or “fell over,” and hit my head, or “brain helmet.”

April: Yeah, he sneezed and smacked his head against the wall.

Dr. Harris: That sounds about right. Well, if it’s a concussion, it’s extremely mild, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Anything else?

Because he clearly perceives Andy to be less intelligent than he is (and Andy is meant to be a dumb but lovable character), Dr. Harris doesn’t take what would normally be weird behavior into account. Andy looks right when asked to look left and vice versa, showing a gap in cognitive function.

Andy’s dialogue is meant to be a joke, but it’s clearly a delusional response under normal circumstances. If this were real, and Andy weren’t prone to saying silly, ignorant things while trying to sound smart, April would be concerned, like, “Um, why are you making up some crazy alternative story to what really happened to you? Do you have memory loss?”

Read the rest on Medium (in case you didn’t already know, I’m pretty passionate about this.) 🙂

Do you believe in miracles?

I do.

I keep thinking about them.

I have had so many and hope to have many more.

They’re not as rare as popular culture teaches us to believe.

Miracles are the law in an ordered universe that gently, bravely, strongly makes way for the impossible to happen amid apparent rigidity or chaos.

Keep believing.

Even if the miracle doesn’t come, or the long-awaited miracle ends in disaster, miracles still move in, through, and around all things, animating them and making way for life, hope, resilience, to continue beyond our sight and understanding.

Miracles are the everlasting law.

Miracles are like Annie Dillard’s fire, sparking everywhere.

Miracles are mighty and plentiful, God’s inexhaustible currency.

Miracles are real. They surround us, enfold us, lift us.

Miracles are yours and mine.

They’re everywhere. Are you looking?






certificateof membership-3.png

My third brainiversary + broken prayers

A few days ago it was three years since I injured my brain in a freak accident.

It’s hard to know what to say on this anniversary. Each day since then I’ve lived in the shadow-grief of that two seconds and the massive destruction it caused in my life, to my very self as constructed by a lifetime of brain growth, education, connection-building.

I was feeling a bit more eloquent on Instagram on the actual day that marked three years.

It’s my 3rd brainiversary! This day will always be poignant for me because it’s the day my map to life and myself were unceremoniously shredded. It’s been a steep climb. Until this year, I didn’t recognize my experience of self as *my* whole self. There were many parts that were the same, but my internal way of processing the world was buried in neural chaos. It’s an experience in pain, confusion and despair I still can’t comprehend, and I continue to write to try to understand, even though it affects me every day to a much lesser degree than at first. A couple of weeks ago when I was a puddle of emotional paralysis and ineffectiveness, I cried to my dad, “I’m so tired of breaking down. What’s the problem? There must be something more going on.” My dad said, “What we know is that you had a concussion.” He said that it made him think of the movie Apollo 13 where there’s an explosion and their flight plan is blown to smithereens. Mission control sends up the pragmatic query: What do we have? What’s working? My dad then said we’d keep working with what we have and work toward healing. It was one of those beautiful moments that has crystallized all the struggle into one reality: all is not lost. If you have strong relationships and a wise owl on your shoulder, whoever that may be (even if it’s you! Especially if it’s you), you can do anything. This time next year, I’ll be stronger than I am today. My healing time horizon is infinite, and that’s more than enough time. #anniversary #brainiversay #concussion #heal #healing #inspire #inspiration #instagood #instagram #photo #photography #tbi #youcandoit

A post shared by The Art of Striving| Elizabeth (@artofstriving) on

One of the most painful fallouts of the accident was the damage to my short-term memory.

For months it made it difficult to pray. For the first few months, I couldn’t even hold the thought I wanted to pray long enough to get it out. It was a real struggle, and the damage to my perception of my own spirituality was quite devastating. I didn’t feel like I could really rely on God in the time I needed Him most, needed any assurance that all would be well, that God still had a plan for me.

But day after day, I talked myself into it. I exercised every bit of faith I could muster. I kept returning to God and Christ. I prayed in the shower. I clung to whatever shred of hope I could while my life slowly reassembled itself.

I trust that in that time of deepest trial, and even to this day, that God listened to my broken prayers. I had some miraculous answers, and usually on a day after I managed to humble myself to dust and beg for assistance.

I still need that kind of strong prayer. But even though I don’t often get there, God is still listening to me, and maybe one day this will all make sense.

How to Love Your Brain Better with 1 Test

It’s never too late to love your brain!

While you’re snacking on a bit of chocolate from your Valentine, watch this music video by NPR’s science show Skunk Bear. It has me completely cracking up, and I guarantee it will crack you up, too. I’m going to have “Oxytocin is the potion of devotion” stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

On Valentine’s Day we lavish loved ones with presents and thoughtful messages to show them how much we care. We know that those relationships are priceless. The people we love really are irreplaceable.

The same is true of our brains. We only get one, so keeping it healthy is among the most important aspects of our health for our entire life. Many people today, though, still don’t know to take care of their brains until they break down and they start having health problems.

Happy Valentine's day.png

I am one week from my third Brainiversary.

I experienced this breakdown in vivid and horrific detail when I had a brain injury in 2015. But years of weakness both genetically, environmentally, from lifestyle and previous injury and chronic health conditions had stressed my brain to the max. It could not recover quickly with the additional brain damage from the injury.

The past three years I have dedicated all my energy to rehabilitating my brain health. Health is a continuing concern for all of us, but without a healthy brain, life completely breaks down. It becomes impossible to do even the most simple basic tasks.

Although I have experienced incredible progress, I am nevertheless looking for answers and solutions to getting my brain back in tip-top working order. This week I found a resource that I wanted to share with you. It’s a great guide for anyone who wants to improve her brain health, and it could be especially critical for someone in recovery.

The Cleveland Clinic Brain Health Index will help you score your brain health and identify areas of improvement.

The Cleveland Clinic website called Healthy Brains collects research and shares information about brain health. I participated in the free assessment they offer on the site to grade your brain health in the six areas, or pillars, they are concerned with.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 2.45.53 PM.png

6 pillars cleveland clinic.png

The assessment took less than 10 minutes. I opted in to offer my information for their research because we still know so little about the brain. If my experience can help someone down the road, I want to share it (and that includes sharing with you on this blog!). By the end of the assessment, I had personalized scores in the 6 areas mentioned above with individual recommendations for how to improve.

My scores. My sleep score was the worst of all!

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 3.04.10 PM.png

Maybe in a future post I’ll go more in-depth into my results and share their recommendations. But I highly recommend doing this assessment. Wherever you are with your brain health, you can always improve and it could save you a lot of brain-ache in the long run. Believe me, I know how overwhelming it is to fix multiple areas at once. But I am committed to trying to do a little better each day. I know you can, too.

Keep striving! Follow my Facebook page for more brain healthy articles and tips!

Football + brain = A good reason not to play

Rise and Shout the Cougars Are Out!

I grew up watching football games with my family. BYU and Utah were the big teams in my house. Cougar Stadium in Provo, Utah, has one of the most beautiful views of any stadium I’ve been to.

Lavell Edwards Stadium 1
Photo by Kenny Crookston/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2008 All Rights Reserved.

I went to one of the famed Harvard/Yale football games while I was in grad school, but for the most part I slowly stopped watching football after I graduated from college. If a game was playing on TV, I would leave the room.

For me, the most worrisome part of the sport was how violent it was. I really couldn’t stand to watch men crumple on the field after a smashing hit. It felt gladiatorial.

Repeated Hits to the Head Damage the Brain

Well, it turns out my gut reaction wasn’t wrong. Repeated hits to the head are being found to be the cause of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that’s being discovered in NFL players. You don’t even need to get a full concussion to experience change to your brain structure, and cumulatively subconcussive hits can devastate brain function.

Learning firsthand how miserable a concussion is, turned me into a brain advocate. I want people to protect their brains so they don’t have to experience the misery of losing their short-term memory, balance, word-finding skills, ability to read without resting, pain, or incomprehension, and so much more.

Should I Allow My Kid to Play Football?

With a lot in the news about the brain and football lately, parents are no doubt asking themselves whether their kids should play football or not. That’s going to be an individual decision, of course. However, it’s important to know what football does to the brain to be able to make the best choice for your child. It’s especially important to consider brain development in making sports-related decisions.

Everyone needs to protect his or her brain, and it’s even more crucial to protect kids’ brains because they are still growing and forming the connections that will define the rest of their lives. The Concussion Legacy Foundation recommends delaying, limiting, and modifying contact to delay the inevitable brain damage.

If you need any more convincing, this video gives you more facts about the brain and more from my brain injury story. You only have one brain. Take good care of it and stay safe out there!


Follow The Art of Striving on Facebook and Instagram for more brain-healthy tips.

Be a brain advocate today!

With a lot of great new followers on The Art of Striving Facebook page, I want to thank everyone for their support. By following The Art of Striving you’re showing that you’re a brain advocate!

I believe that everyone can be a brain advocate.

Be a brain advocate todayWhat’s a brain advocate? It’s someone who knows about the brain and helps support people with brain injuries, neurological challenges, and mental health issues.
Every brain is different, and that’s a good thing! The brain makes us who we are, in ways we don’t fully understand as a society yet. Everyone deserves understanding and compassion when they have challenges, and this is especially crucial when those challenges are found in the brain and nervous system.
The Art of Striving began as my personal brain injury recovery blog. I wanted to have a positive place to create and practice regaining skills I had lost in my February 2015 concussion. I also wanted to make something uplifting and educational. As time passed, I hoped that people would learn from my experience what it’s like to have a brain injury. I hoped that this education would help them look out for other people with similar challenges and be there to render assistance. We’ll all know at least one person with a brain injury in our life, and it’s likely that we’ll know several, if not have one ourselves.
As The Art of Striving moves forward, I am working on including more information about how everyone can be not just brain injury advocates but brain advocates, too. We all know someone (or possibly are someone) with anxiety or depression, autism or multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder or brain injury. We all know children, youth, and adults who are developing at individual rates that may make being their friend a challenge.
When you have a brain challenge, you don’t stop being human or somehow become a different kind of human. You can still live to the fullest and have a great experience in life, with the right resources and the right support. We’re all deeply human, and it takes a little more work, consideration, and support to be a brain advocate for people whose brains are sick, injured, or simply wired in unique ways that might be hard to understand (also known as being human).
If we all work together to try to understand how others’ brains work, and learn to see them not as defective but as human, we’ll be a lot better off. We’ll be more compassionate and be able to step out with strong courage to assist others. We’ll stop seeing obstacles to connection and start actively seeking for ways to directly connect with people who have brain challenges. We’ll see opportunities for growth in ourselves and others, wherever they are. We’ll stop passing judgment and start passing love around.
This is what I believe. Join me and become a brain advocate today.

Look out for more posts about how you can be a good brain advocate, Invite others who you think are good brain advocates to follow this blog and my Instagram account. Let’s build a healthier society through compassion, understanding, and education about the brain!

#NationalConcussionAwarenessDay • 542 days • Recovering from a concussion almost 19 months ago has been more painful, more challenging, and more life changing than anything I have experienced so far. Today I'm raising awareness for this invisible injury that sometimes turns into a baffling, frustrating, prolonged health crisis. 🏳If you ride your bike, play a contact/extreme/water sport, or are basically a human biped, protect your head. 🏳If you hit your head, are in a car accident, etc. seek medical advice, especially if you notice something's off. 🏳If you're playing a sport, quit until you can verify that you have zero symptoms (altered consciousness, bleeding, memory problems, visual impairment, balancing issues, cognitive slowing) and to avoid reconcussion. 🏳If you're recovering, don't give up. Believe in the powers of neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire and heal. All I can do is be where I am, which is sometimes an incredibly hard-fought place to be. I am on the recovery road and doing better each week. I'm riding the waves. I can do this.

A post shared by The Art of Striving| Elizabeth (@artofstriving) on