Speaker 0 00:00:00 Today, we’re talking about pivots, how to pivot in your concussion recovery journey. My guest today, Mac Lawson is a standup comedian and someone who provides inspiration and hope on Instagram. We met briefly well chatting about my content and how it was inspiring to her. And I hope that you’ll check her out and she’s offered up very graciously to connect with my listeners. So certainly reach out to her. And, uh, she’s a funny gal, so I’m sure she’s gonna have lots to say lots of inspiration. And today we talk about her injury and specifically how she sustained a concussion after a domestic violence incident. We also talk about invalidating people when there’s people in your life that aren’t helpful and that it’s good. It’s a good thing to find your people, to find the people that are gonna be supportive. So on the end, we talk a little bit about self care and I really liked that part of our discussion. So take a listen to this wonderful survivor. Hi everyone. Welcome to the TBI therapist podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Jen chat, where we explore the heart of brain injury.
Speaker 1 00:01:27 Hello?
Speaker 0 00:01:28 Hello. Hey. Hi. Welcome to the TBI therapist podcast. How are you today?
Speaker 1 00:01:33 I’m really good. I’ve been really excited to do this podcast. <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:01:38 Yeah. I’m so glad that you reached out to me. We kind of met on Instagram and you were liking some of my content and mm-hmm <affirmative>. I was like, let’s do it. Let’s just do the podcast. So I’m excited to have you on to hear have people hear your story.
Speaker 1 00:01:51 Yeah, I, I really, I, I really liked what you were doing on your Instagram. I think you, um, you’re doing something really important that not a lot of therapists or doctors are, are doing for people with TBI. So great.
Speaker 0 00:02:06 So I’m gonna kick it off with a question for
Speaker 1 00:02:08 You. Sure. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:02:10 So what is one thing about your brain injury that people often get wrong or they don’t understand?
Speaker 1 00:02:17 Well, there are definitely a few things that, um, people didn’t really understand during the healing process. I think the main one for me was that when you have a brain injury, mental toughness is not an option. So a lot of my friends during that time watched me go through a personality change, which ended up being for me, the most upsetting part of my injury was my friends. Because when they saw me go through this personality change, a lot of them just wrote it off as, um, either laziness or, you know, just like lack of mental toughness. Or I was now I became overly emotional or I was sensitive. And what people for me, the biggest thing that people didn’t understand, including a lot of my close friends is that when you have a brain injury, you are not in charge of your brain <laugh> and you are, you’re gaining, um, control of your brain. It takes a really long time to get that back. But yeah, that was my, one of them. There was a lot
Speaker 0 00:03:24 <laugh> right. Yeah. So I’m hearing, it was kind of some personality changes they didn’t get. And a lot of that was due to just differences in your brain and not feeling like we’re not feeling or not having control over what was happening in your brain.
Speaker 1 00:03:41 Yeah. You know, so I’m, I’m about four years out for my injury. And I would say that I’m mostly better. I still have my, my days. Um, but you can’t really get a grip when you have a brain injury. And it’s a, in addition to all of the other symptoms that you have, you know, depending on how severe your TBI is, there’s a wide array of symptoms that I was, um, experiencing. But the hardest part for me was my peers, because I didn’t have, I did it. I wasn’t capable of getting a grip. So to say, and so a lot of my friends just were kinda like, oh, she’s dramatic. Or, you know, oh, she cries too much and kind of things like that. So that was the hardest thing for me actually. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> more so than more so than the symptoms themselves.
Speaker 0 00:04:33 Yeah. And what do you think people who say those kinds of things, because you’re, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that. Yeah. Like why can’t you just get it together or, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative> pull your panties up. <laugh> mm-hmm <affirmative> whatever. Or you’re
Speaker 1 00:04:47 So lazy. I got called lazy all the time. I’m not a lazy person.
Speaker 0 00:04:51 So tell me why you think people have a hard time understanding this particularly about brain injury?
Speaker 1 00:04:56 Well, I think, um, you know, there’s, there’s extremes with brain injuries. You know, there’s some people who have brain injuries, maybe a little bit worse than mine, where it’s, they have visible symptoms. So maybe they hit their head and it’s like messed up or they have like really bad speech impediments or they’re, you know, can’t speak things like that. People tend to take those brain injuries more seriously, but because nobody could visibly see what was wrong with me. It was hard for people to understand that there was something wrong with me. And it was only my most empathetic friends. And I guess the friends have probably always genuinely cared about me the most, that would take the time to hear me out and ended up. Um, I ended up having to really change my friend group at that time. Yeah. And I, I permanently changed it actually and probably for the better. Um, so I’m actually pretty thankful for it. Cause a lot of people that fell outta my life, I realized they were only there for me when I was doing well. Yeah. And um, so I learned a lot through it, which I, I probably wouldn’t have learned to be so specific about the type of people that I had around me had I not gone through that, you know,
Speaker 0 00:06:10 For sure. So,
Speaker 1 00:06:11 Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:06:12 So tell us a little bit about your injury if that’s okay.
Speaker 1 00:06:16 Yeah. So, um, my injury, which kind of complicated the healing process a lot, especially emotionally, um, my injury was the result of a domestic violence. It without going too much into the situation, it was really bad. Um, I actually thought at the moment I was gonna die when it was happening. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but, but I didn’t. Um, and I don’t wanna talk too much about the situation just cause it’s
Speaker 0 00:06:42 Sure whatever you
Speaker 1 00:06:42 Comfortable. Yeah. I’m, I’m still healing from that. And it’s been four years. Um, and it definitely complicated the healing process because as people, you know, who are survivors of any type of brain injury, there is already within the injury, a lot of mental, emotional, psychological, and PTSD type problems just with the brain injury itself. So for me, it was kind of, um, an extra like spiritual battle struggle because I was dealing with all of that. And then in addition, it was somebody that I loved who gave me that suffering. But you know, as heavy as that is, it’s like four years out now. I’m just so thankful that I just completely started to turn around this year. So I’m thankful.
Speaker 0 00:07:31 So yeah. So I could imagine like with something like DV and again, being sensitive to how much you wanna share regarding that particular situation. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but maybe just talking in generalities about DV and what, there is a lot of stigma with with just having something happen in a relationship. And then mm-hmm <affirmative> it was a brain injury
Speaker 1 00:07:51 Mm-hmm
Speaker 0 00:07:51 <affirmative> let alone quote unquote, a physical injury that we can see. Like you alluded to earlier that people can say, oh, she broke her leg from this. Oh my gosh, well we know what that’s gonna go look like. She can’t really walk for six weeks and then she’s gonna have the rehab, but no one really has a concept of your brain and what that means. And the trauma recovery from dealing with abuse
Speaker 1 00:08:12 Mm-hmm <affirmative> and that was, and I think that’s why my number one problem during healing was my friends, because a lot of them were just like, oh, you’re just not over this guy. And I, it was, it took people with incredible size hearts to really understand and to really listen to me because, you know, you, you love somebody, you love somebody, any type of breakup, whether it’s Stevie or not, it’s gonna be heartbreaking. But when you have a brain injury and something emotionally traumatic happens to you, it becomes 10 times bigger than if you don’t have a brain injury, because you don’t have the grip on your brain that you usually do. Yeah. If that sense. So it does,
Speaker 0 00:08:57 It really does. I mean, I always talk about the brain, like executive functioning is something that we call in the brain that holds it all together. And I think emotions can like be that thing that just kinda disrupts the whole thing. And so let’s think about a conductor that’s that’s conducting in your brain, all the different activities mm-hmm <affirmative> and then you have like this toddler that just like runs through the orchestra, that’s the brain injury mm-hmm, <affirmative> that’s, you know, disrupting the attention, disrupting the cognition, disrupting, you know, your sensory inputs and all those things that are happening. So then the conductor’s like, what the hell is this?
Speaker 1 00:09:33 Yeah. So
Speaker 0 00:09:34 That’s kinda
Speaker 1 00:09:34 How I feel relatable
Speaker 0 00:09:35 In the brain. That’s actually what happens with emotion is that it disrupts cognition. So it makes totally sense that what you are telling me is what you experienced
Speaker 1 00:09:44 Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think for me, so initially after the incident, like immediately after, um, we went to the hospital, um, he came there with me. He was very sorry. I don’t, you know, we won’t go get into it. He was very sorry at the moment. <laugh> I didn’t listen to the ER doctor and I should have listened to the ER doctor because he was like, what just happened? Chad, Chad is very serious. I need you to stay overnight. I need you to get testing. I think there, you know, you could have a very serious concussion. And I was just, I think so shocked from everything. I just wanna get out of the hospital. And he told me I had a concussion at the hospital, but I used to be a gymnast. So I’ve had many concussions in my life. Oh, okay. Yeah. And so when he told me I had a concussion, I was like, oh, okay. So for like a week I’m I’m gonna have headaches. Like that’s what I assumed. And then that was not what happened. And so it was hard for me because for a while I just thought I was just really weak. I didn’t realize what was going on with me was my injury. And it wasn’t until I bumped my head again and ended up having to go to the ER, that the ER doctor was like, no, you have a serious brain injury. So
Speaker 0 00:11:01 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:11:02 I don’t know how I went on that tangent <laugh> I don’t know where that came from. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:11:05 So, so maybe we’ll, we’ll pivot a little bit and talk about like life before, like I, you were talking a little bit about being a gymnast and previous concussions and maybe that had something to do with it. Also, you talked in the pre-interview about how, when you were a gymnast, you kind of had this really tough mentality. And so that was different than recovering from a brain injury.
Speaker 1 00:11:28 Yeah. Um, my whole life has been very performance based. It’s like when I had the brain injury, I instantly started suffering in addition to everything else from self-esteem problems. Cuz I couldn’t perform. And my whole life before it was like was based off of performance. So I was, I was a gymnast. I played for instruments. Um, my family was very like achievement based type love, you know, you do this. Okay. Everyone pays attention. So that was my personality through brain injury. And that was also how I gained my, my self confidence was through accomplishment and um, I definitely got confused in my words. Talk, I still get confused when I’m talking. Um, but it’s okay.
Speaker 0 00:12:14 I’m very normal.
Speaker 1 00:12:16 Yeah. <laugh> so get it like when you go from constantly achieving and constantly basing your self worth off of achievement to a place where not only you don’t know what’s going on with you, also someone you love just hurt you. And then now you’re not accomplishing things and you have no idea why until I was diagnosed, you have no idea why it is a really, really dark place. Yeah. And so at the time, how old
Speaker 0 00:12:43 Were you
Speaker 1 00:12:44 When I got my injury? Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, so I’m 31 now it happened in 2000, March of 2018. So I think I was 27
Speaker 0 00:12:55 Mm-hmm <affirmative>
Speaker 1 00:12:57 Um, and it was difficult for me too. So I had just moved to LA to pursue my, my Hollywood dream. And it was like three months after I moved to LA. And so that was another thing that was pretty difficult for me is I, I was like, I felt like I, I was worthless, you know, and I’m in one of the most competitive, um, cutthroat cities and in the entire world and here I am like unable to accomplish anything. So my, my point of saying all this was, I really, during that time of my injury ha developed this very strong self love. And um, I might tear up a little bit.
Speaker 0 00:13:41 Yeah. Take a minute.
Speaker 1 00:13:44 Well, the reason why I’m tearing up is cuz like I know that people watch this podcast, like I know what they’re going through.
Speaker 0 00:13:50 Mm-hmm <affirmative>
Speaker 1 00:13:53 And um, you know, I looking back on it cause I still get, I still stumble over my words a little bit. There’s still things that different things I’m struggling with emotionally, um, regarding the injury, but looking back where I had to develop that confidence and that self love it’s so priceless. It’s so priceless. And, and I’m so thankful for that because I no longer look at myself as a, a performance. My life is not performance. It’s not about achievement. It’s about am I happy? And my brain injury taught me that, which is pretty cool. I think.
Speaker 0 00:14:31 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:14:33 Yeah. I’m a baby
Speaker 0 00:14:38 For if you need. I think that, I think in getting in touch with those feelings, like when you were in those dark places, I think a lot of people can relate to that, that place of feeling like everything that I had led that I had stacked my life up to be before my injury was now completely shattered and changed. Yeah. And that for a lot of people, it’s a dark place because they don’t see themselves in the way they saw themselves before.
Speaker 1 00:15:08 Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah.
Speaker 0 00:15:09 And after the aftermath of that, can’t you can see the, you know, you can see those glimers of light and hope and all that stuff. But I think during the middle of it, it’s so hard.
Speaker 1 00:15:19 Oh, in the glimers of light, sometimes don’t come for a while. I mean, for me, they, it was a while before because I, because the, the healing, right? So the healing is the hardest part, like rebuilding, you know, those synapses in your brain or whatever it’s doing while you’re healing. That part is so strenuous. So even if you have the strongest of hope or, you know, the best spirit, you still can’t fix your brain overnight. So it’s like an endurance of spirit that you build during an injury. What I think a lot of people don’t understand is the feeling of being in your body, being in your brain and having no control over what it’s doing and it’s petrifying. Mm it’s. Petrifying. So, yeah.
Speaker 0 00:16:13 Yeah. And I, it’s a feeling that I sit with a lot with people, you know, like that they like the untethered unor. I don’t know where this is. What is this place type thing that mm-hmm <affirmative> I kind of have talked many times and sat many hours with people in that pain. It’s,
Speaker 1 00:16:32 It’s so important. And that’s why, you know, I initially reached out to you is because I needed someone like you during my injury. And, um, I just feel like there’s such a lack of knowledge from the general public or in, with the general public about these kind of, you get a little concussion, you know, you sleep for a week or whatever, you’re fine. Then you have these really serious brain injuries are super unfortunate, but these middle ground people are the ones end up doing things like committing suicide or you struggling with drug addiction, um, or just kind of their life just completely derails because they don’t have the knowledge and support that they desperately need. It’s not something that you want, it’s something that you actually positively need. And, um, I just, I just, I just think that it’s really good. What you’re doing. I wish more therapists would, would tap into this area. So,
Speaker 0 00:17:30 Yeah, same. I mean, I it’s, I think it’s a unique training that I had and like area that I went into that not many people do and that’s, and when people see me for therapy, they’re like, what, where are all the therapists that specialize in this? And I’m like, I don’t know, but they need to come on board.
Speaker 1 00:17:45 Yeah. Cause it very important.
Speaker 0 00:17:47 Yeah. So I was gonna ask you a little bit about, you know, your pivots or pivots from the place where it felt really dark and you know, you weren’t able to feel like you could see the hope, but when did you start seeing some hope, when were you starting to see more pivots?
Speaker 1 00:18:07 So, um, the pivots are, it’s kind of like a snowball effect. Like you have one and then takes a while to have another one. And then they start, you start increasingly getting better and better and better and better kind of, I think at least for my healing. So for the first, I’d say year and a half, it was pretty bleak for the whole year and a half. Um, at about the year and a half point, I started to have a little bit more energy. Um, I wasn’t always depressed all the time. One of my major symptoms that was pretty debilitating, um, which made me feel like I was like schizophrenic or something, but I would have dejavu like 150 times a day. And it wasn’t until I talked to the ER, doctor that he was like, oh no, that’s a symptom of a brain entry.
Speaker 1 00:19:07 Um, so the, when the dejavu kind of started to slow down, that’s when, yeah. My symptom started to pivot, which was at like a year, year and a half. And you know, I would have, I would, uh, initially after my injury, I would, the whole day I would wake up and the whole day I would feel like I was like dreaming <laugh> am I crazy? And, and I thought that I was crazy. So I was so afraid to talk to, I knew it wasn’t normal. So I was so afraid to like go into a doctor and be like, you know, misdiagnosed of like having schizophrenia or, cause I knew, I knew it was wrong. I knew it didn’t make sense, but I would just be like, I feel like I’m dreaming and I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake a year and a half point is where I started to have those pivots. And then I think the biggest one was about three and a half years, which is about six or about a year ago? No, like seven months ago.
Speaker 0 00:20:02 Yeah. Yeah. Talk about that.
Speaker 1 00:20:06 Um, so I had moved to Miami, so I think that might have had a lot to do with it psychologically. I moved physically away from where the injury occurred. Um, it helped me a lot emotionally and I think also Miami’s just a really happy place and I wasn’t having the license sensitivity that I used to have. So I got this apartment that actually was right on the water and it’s beautiful. And I have, it’s so funny cuz for three and a half years, three years, I wasn’t really able to go out in the sun without experiencing some sort of symptoms. And then once they started to subside, I ended up getting this beautiful apartment in Miami, overlooking the whole Skyland of Miami. I had the most beautiful sunsets and you know, sun rises, I I think in Miami and it was just kind of ironic because for so long I couldn’t enjoy the sun and it’s like now I, you know, get to experience it every day. But I think things just started to get better when I left where I was number one. And then I don’t, I don’t know what it was that like caused such a huge pivot. Cause it was the injury probably started to get mostly better around like three years. But there was something about being in a, like a new place that really helped me. I don’t know if that makes sense, like on a, like a scientific level, but there’s something about being in a new place that like really, really helped me. And
Speaker 0 00:21:41 There’s some evidence for blue spaces. So being around water is really calming.
Speaker 1 00:21:45 Oh really? Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:21:47 Oh, so I mean definitely when I, when you said the ocean, I was like, well perhaps it could be something to do with like that calming nature of being near water.
Speaker 1 00:21:56 Mm-hmm <affirmative>, I’m, I’m literally right on the water. And you know, most of my symptoms were, most of my symptoms were gone at about two and a half years. So most of my, my pressing symptoms were gone before I ever moved to Miami mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, but a lot of my energy levels started to come back at about the three and a half year mark. And I think it was kind of a blend of a lot of my symptoms, exciting, um, being in a new place and being in a beautiful place, which I’m very, very fortunate, but I also feel like, you know, I feel like it was like, this is gonna sound so corny, but I feel like it was like, I feel like it was like a blessing, you know, it was like, oh look, this is your blessing for, for pushing through it cuz it like, it was so hard for me to get through those years. I wanted to just, you know, you’re depressed. You don’t want go on anymore, but anyway, um, being corny, but
Speaker 1 00:22:52 I love it was about the, you the three and half year mark. And um, I started to feel happy and energetic again and I, I still, and that’s, I’m still not all the way better. I’m still like, I assume I’m stumbling over my words right now. Um, my memory can be really, really bad. I have to get eight hours of sleep at night and um, if I don’t get eight hours of sleep at night, I can feel that spiral start to happen. So I also have really bad memory problems still. So I’ll meet somebody or I’ll see somebody that I met last year. Maybe we had a really, really long in depth, you know, important conversation. We hung out for a whole night and I’ll look at them, I’ll know I know them, but I’ll have no recollection. So there are still symptoms. Um,
Speaker 0 00:23:42 Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:23:44 But I’m, I’m just happy again. <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:23:49 So awesome. It’s
Speaker 1 00:23:50 Hard. Yeah. Thank, thank God. <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:23:53 <laugh> so talk to us a little bit about stand up and how that happened. Hi everyone. Just interrupting your programming a little bit. It’s Dr. Jen here. I wanted to let you know about my new email course. So I developed an email course in the past couple months just to give you kind of my basics on concussion and brain injury recovery. I go a little bit over my strategies for managing nervous system changes and also mindset shifts and how to find your people. So that’s the main focus of the email course. And I also talk a little bit about my coaching offerings. So you might have felt that you’ve been trying to seek either mental health services and that’s just not possible in your area to have someone with expertise in brain injury and wellness and mental health. And although this is different from mental health counseling, you might benefit from coaching or someone who can come alongside you and just kind of point you in different directions and resources and possibly connect you with resources near you. So if you’re interested in any, any of that, please take me up on my free resource, which is the email course. And if you’re interested about my coaching offerings, please head over to TBI therapist.com back to your program.
Speaker 1 00:25:15 Yeah. So, um, before, and, and you know, I think this is a encouraging, I think it’s an encouraging story. So before I got my brain injury, because I was so, um, performance based, something like standup is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do because it takes, you know, you, you bomb a lot when you’re on stage. Um, especially when you’re first starting, it takes a certain amount of like humility kind of, or, or reckless abandoned to even do stand up in the first place. So when I was going through my healing, my brain injury, um, after about probably I’d say a year, year and a half had gone by, I was still very depressed. And so I would go on social media and I would just kind of go on these rants to make myself laugh and to make other people laugh and just to deflect from what was going on inside of me.
Speaker 1 00:26:13 And they just had an overwhelming amount of people tell me that I should start seeing up comedy. And so I ended up doing it. I ended up going on stage and I basically found my life’s purpose through my brain injury, which is crazy. And I never would’ve had the guts to get on stage or maybe I was a little bit too prideful cause it’s scary, you know? Yeah. Um, but when I was, when I was going through my brain injury, it was like, everything is so bad right now. So I don’t really care if people think that I’m not funny, I’m just doing this because everything is so bad. So let me just do it anyway. Yeah. So it’s, it’s been hard because I do have problems memorizing my jokes. I still have problems memorizing my jokes. So, but it’s been, it’s been kind of a cool tool for me to try to work on my memorization and to kind of build, you know, that, that part back inside of my brain in a, in a fun way to do it rather than like a strenuous way, uh, rebuilding that muscle of memory. But it’s, it’s been going really well lately. I’m really happy. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:27:27 Well it seems like a lot of survivors. And I think I say this almost every time that I interview someone, it’s like they started something new in their lives, which was helpful in their recovery. So it’s, it really is an interesting, and I think neuro the research of neuroplasticity would certainly mm-hmm, <affirmative> say that that’s really beneficial. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that you’re doing this new thing and you’re memorizing stuff and you’re really using your brain in different ways in doing that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so I think that’s awesome.
Speaker 1 00:27:53 Yeah. And, and I think, you know, one of the things for me is that was always very into the brain growing up. And so when I found out I had a brain injury, when they’ve like properly diagnosed me, I knew about neuroplasticity already. So, and I think that’s something that’s very important for people to remember is that your brain is very powerful. It might be broken while you’re going through this injury. And no one’s doubting that. And nobody’s saying that you can just fix it like that. That’s not how it works, but your brain does have neuroplasticity. So I, my friends that I’ve met through the, the community and everything, I tell them it has neuroplasticity. You can rebuild it, just be patient. Just, just try, just take notes of the times when you know, you’re stuttering over your words, or you don’t remember something, take notes of it. And just, just continually every day, try to like rebuild that part of you back, you know?
Speaker 0 00:28:49 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:28:50 Which I’m still working on. Cause I, how many times have I stuttered
Speaker 0 00:28:54 People like that though? I think people like stuttering. They like to know you’re human.
Speaker 1 00:28:58 Yeah. They think it’s cute. Yeah, they do. Yeah. I think it’s cute when other people stutter. So I do
Speaker 0 00:29:04 Me, I think if you’re, if you’re doing podcasting, like I am, I’ve just, it’s just a different mode we get into my brain works differently. Now when I speak. Yeah. I
Speaker 1 00:29:14 Pause. Oh very too. Yeah. Because
Speaker 0 00:29:17 I hate because I’ve edited out. Um, so many times from a podcast that I just, I don’t say it anymore, so it’s crazy.
Speaker 1 00:29:22 Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. I think for me, like, I just, it’s frustrating for me sometimes because I used to be so much faster. My brain needs to just be so much faster and it’s just not, it’s so frustrating. And in some ways it still is like, I’m, I’m obviously I’m a comedian I’m able to, to be funny and it’s quick in that way. But when I’m communicating, it takes longer for me to pull that information. Right. And like get it to my mouth, you know? So
Speaker 0 00:29:50 Yeah. Sometimes it’s like, can you just take the file from my, some people have told me what I work with them. Can you take the file outta my brain? And I can just give it to you. And then that would be so much easier. Wish that was possible.
Speaker 1 00:30:02 I feel like it’s like cemented shut, like whatever that file is. And I feel like I got like chipping away, like cement around the file cabinet, like just trying to get in there and that’s, and like, I it’s, like I was doing it for years and finally I can like open it, but it’s like rusty and I’m like, come on, like get out. I
Speaker 0 00:30:17 Need to, I know I have like a file right here, like, Hey.
Speaker 1 00:30:20 Yeah, exactly, exactly. It’s exactly the picture I have in my
Speaker 0 00:30:23 Mind. Oh, that’s funny.
Speaker 1 00:30:24 That’s
Speaker 0 00:30:25 Funny. People enjoy, enjoy hearing that, that analogy.
Speaker 1 00:30:29 Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:30:30 Som can you give some tips that have really worked for you that might be helpful for other survivors as they’re recovering?
Speaker 1 00:30:39 Yeah. Um, so the, my brain injury was, um, not just physically, mentally and emotionally debilitating, but it was also financially. And so a lot of my, uh, not all of it, but a lot of my healing process was things I did at my house. Like things I did for me, little things that I did for me had nothing to do with doctors. It was just me taking care of me. One of the things that was really helpful was limiting sunlight exposure because when I was able to limit the amount of sunlight that I, um, exposed myself to every day, I was able to be more productive at home. So I had black out curtains. I still do actually. Um, but I had black out curtains in every room of my apartment and I, and I would only go outside when I needed to, especially for the first like year and a half.
Speaker 1 00:31:32 The second thing that I think is really important is to just really not have anybody in your life that tries to invalidate your experience. Um, unfortunately I lost lot of friends with it, the, my brain injury, but I don’t regret it because I needed people around me that were listening to me and really cared about me. That’s very important. And then, you know, another thing that I did is I tried to be as normal as I could. So I didn’t just always say no. Sometimes I said yes and left the house and I was in LA. So my friends were always, it was hard sometimes, but sometimes I did have to say no, but my friends were always out doing all these cool things. You know, LA is a really fun place to live. So sometimes I said yes, and maybe it meant, you know, that the, the two or three days afterwards, I felt like shit or didn’t, you know, started to cuss or didn’t get anything done.
Speaker 1 00:32:24 But sometimes I did say yes to going out and doing things that probably I shouldn’t have been doing. And maybe that’s not what the doctor would tell you to do. But for me, the reason why I did it is because I was just so depressed and I would get to a point where I was like, all my friends were doing all these fun things and I just, I didn’t feel well, but I would still put myself in those situations occasionally to just remind myself that how life really was, you know, to try to help me with the depression.
Speaker 0 00:32:52 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:32:53 But in moderation,
Speaker 0 00:32:55 I think that makes sense. I mean, social, social isolation is real mm-hmm <affirmative> and that also contributes to cognitive issues. So when we are not social, our brain doesn’t work as well. So it’s like, yeah,
Speaker 1 00:33:11 It’s
Speaker 0 00:33:11 A push pull. I find in recovery that mm-hmm, <affirmative> you, you’re gonna have to push yourself a little bit and you have to figure out like, okay, maybe that’s a choice I make. And then I have to hopefully rebound on the other end of it, but I really need to do this for myself. I really need to see myself. So I get that.
Speaker 1 00:33:29 Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think I probably, I think I did it like, I would like 60% of the time I would push myself and then 40% of the time I would not. And you know, I, as somebody who was so performance based pre-injury I really learned how to take care of myself. You know, it sounds silly, but when you’re going through stuff like this, a bubble bath is like the best thing ever because when nothing else is making sense, sitting in a bubble bath does, and so many bubble baths with candles, nice music. And just really my, my apartment at the time became like this little like sanctuary where maybe I wasn’t being productive, but I was peaceful. Um, and I had my little dog with me, so that was helpful.
Speaker 0 00:34:15 Yeah. Oh, animals are great. Mm-hmm <affirmative>
Speaker 1 00:34:17 Yeah. Animals are great
Speaker 0 00:34:18 For recovery. So, so self care with, you know, doing baths and being with your puppy and also self care is also like the, not so sexy, like boundaries <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:34:31 Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:34:31 That was, I think what you talked about with people that, that invalidate your experience. So mm-hmm, <affirmative> making sure that you’re not around those people. I think that is definitely self-care as well.
Speaker 1 00:34:41 It was hard for me my first year. Um, my roommate, you know, she met me pre-injury and she is like a fitness, um, model. You know, we, we initially were very similar, very goal, you know, oriented, hardworking performance based people. But once I got my injury, I had a complete personality change. So it was really hard cause she didn’t understand, but she actually, I think she ended up getting like some, a concussion or something or something happened to her where she eventually understood what I was going through, but it was hard for me at the time, because she was like, what happened to my roommate? So I would just didn’t care, close my door, not, not talk to her, you know, love her to death. But at the time I had to put up that boundary, cuz I knew something was deeply wrong with me and I couldn’t handle people in my life that were gonna invalidate what I was experiencing. So yeah. I think that’s one of the most important is having people around you that believe you, because those are your, um, like lifesavers, what are they called when they throw, are they called lifesavers when they throw ’em out of a boat? Yeah. Yeah. They’re they’re your like life save. They’re your
Speaker 0 00:35:51 Life? Lifesavers life
Speaker 1 00:35:52 Preserver. Yeah. Or just like life support. Like they’re like your little like, um, whatever to just keep you going. And I had a few friends that would just hear the same story. They’ll tell you the same story, the same broken record over and over and over and over again for probably more than a year. Probably two years because I couldn’t get it together. Like it, you can’t get it together. You don’t know what’s going on and you need those people that are just like, yep. She’s this is how she is right now. And I’m just gonna love her anyways. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:36:29 So, and I always think of like, how are, how are you building your recovery team for some people that’s medical professionals, professionals, some people that looks like friends loved ones, so it can be all the above.
Speaker 1 00:36:43 Yeah. That’s great. I wish I had known you during the time <laugh> cause I found all this about the like file and error. I
Speaker 0 00:36:50 Know that’s why I’m doing this cause that we have to have a better way here. We have to learn from, I know from the mistakes and also like the triumphs of people that have gone before us in concussion recovery. Like
Speaker 1 00:37:03 You. Yeah. Thank you. And yeah, I, I think, you know, as I continue to, um, grow and expand in my standup comedy career and hopefully, you know, my platform continues to expand as time goes on, you know, God willing. I, one of the most important things that I want to talk about is my injury. Um, and bring awareness to is, is my injury. Because like I said, that little in between these little in between injuries are the worst ones and that’s where we tend to lose people like, um, like athletes and you know, people players or, you know, boxers or even just people hockey players. I, I would, I would read it like as I was going through the injury, I would hear all these stories of people who got a concussion or something happened and they just, you know, committed suicide. And it’s like, because they didn’t know, you don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Speaker 1 00:37:57 It’s not that you’re a suicidal person. You just, you don’t know what’s wrong with you. Right. And you don’t have that, those life savers or whatever you wanna call ’em to kind of help you figure out what’s going on. And you’re like, well, I used to be this mm-hmm <affirmative> and I used to be worth so much. And now I can’t even get through a whole day of work. I can’t even drive to work when I first I couldn’t even drive to work. And so you’re like, I’m so worthless. I have no idea why. And that’s a really, really dark place to be in. So.
Speaker 0 00:38:29 Right. And I think you talking about like how performance and achievement were so important, important. And I think a lot of the folks that I’ve talked to on the podcast and also that I’ve heard on the media who have, you know, either succumbed or mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, had struggled with depression or did mm-hmm <affirmative> complete suicide. Mm-hmm
Speaker 1 00:38:52 <affirmative>
Speaker 0 00:38:52 I think a lot of that is due to not seeing outside of themselves outside of that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> achievement outside of that performance. And it’s a, it’s hard because mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you’re like I’m a fish out of water. Like this was my life and now it’s not,
Speaker 1 00:39:08 I think it’s especially hard too. Um, when your family, so most, I’m not gonna say all my family members, um, but most of my family members also the type of love that I was getting was performance based. So when I wasn’t performing, um, I wasn’t getting the type of love and attention that I needed and deserved. And so that was a huge thing for me as well. But what I, what ended up filling those voids were, were friends, you know, who helped me show that? Right. It’s okay. It’s okay if you know, right. You’re you haven’t done anything today. <laugh> I’m like what I have to accomplish something every day. What are you talking about? So,
Speaker 0 00:39:50 Right. Yeah. Yeah. You’re valuable just because you’re you.
Speaker 1 00:39:54 Yeah. I was like what this is, so that’s thing
Speaker 0 00:39:56 Weird.
Speaker 1 00:39:56 That’s a thing. That’s a thing. It
Speaker 0 00:39:58 Is it’s 100% <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:40:01 And I’m so thankful for that. Cause I never, I’m not thankful cuz it was awful and I, I, I’m not thankful for my brain injury. It was awful, but I’m thankful for, for learning that because it changed the trajectory of my life for the better. Right.
Speaker 0 00:40:17 So I think it’s holding both things it’s holding like that there was, there was that sadness and tragedy and loss. Yeah. And that there’s also this joy and like wonderful thing that came out of it.
Speaker 1 00:40:28 Mm-hmm
Speaker 0 00:40:28 <affirmative> BNE brown gives, gives us that language, the both. And
Speaker 1 00:40:31 <laugh> what, wait, what did you say?
Speaker 0 00:40:33 BNE brown gives us that language of holding two things that it can be both Uhhuh.
Speaker 1 00:40:37 Oh yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:40:38 And I really like thinking about that.
Speaker 1 00:40:40 Yeah. And I think that was, I think that might have been, um, what helped me so much this year was like at least emotionally, maybe not cognitively, but I think they sometimes go a little bit hand in hand during your healing process. Yes. At least for me they did. Yeah. So I think that was a big thing for me was just acceptance and you know, those, I can’t get that part of my life back. That’s something that I went through. So you kind of get to a point when your symptoms are getting better and you are able to kinda function. You get to a point where you make a decision, you know, um, this is where I am. This is what I have going on. I can decide to continue to, to, I don’t wanna say wallow cause that’s insensitive, but I can continue to identify myself in a certain way or I can see what comes of it.
Speaker 1 00:41:37 If I choose to be hopeful, if I were that the right way. And that’s kind of what I started doing this year is I’m like, well, what if my life just starts to get better? Again, even though I’m not the same way that I used to be. Even though some things are a little off, even though I went through this tire or terrible traumatic event that took my twenties, some of my twenties away from me. What if, even though I’m still can’t remember things, what if things can still be good and mm-hmm um, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, that’s an important question. I think I had to ask myself again and again and again and again, during my healing process. Cause like you said, it’s like, there’s a lot of pivots. It’s not just one it’s con it’s a lot of long strenuous time in between these pivots,
Speaker 0 00:42:22 So right. Yeah. Yeah. So I could talk to you all day. Yeah. But like we, we should start wrapping children to pick up <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:42:33 Oh cute. Yeah. I won’t have kids one day. I’m not ready yet, but
Speaker 0 00:42:37 Yeah. You get time. Yeah. Yeah. You got two little boys. They’re sweet.
Speaker 1 00:42:42 Oh, so I got two puppies.
Speaker 0 00:42:44 Yay. I have a puppy in here. So, and in closing, I’m just gonna ask you a fun question.
Speaker 1 00:42:52 Sure.
Speaker 0 00:42:53 What’s your favorite holiday food and why?
Speaker 1 00:42:58 So my aunt would make this, it sounds silly, but she would make this macaroni and cheese and I don’t know how she would make it. She like put it in the oven. I don’t even know if it’s not good, but it’s just so nostalgic. Cause we have it everyth Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was like just like the happiest time in my childhood. So that’s her Mac and cheese is good. Her holiday, Mac and cheese. Um, yeah,
Speaker 0 00:43:24 It’s classic. That’s my final. I think of my N’s my N’s Mac and cheese. It was just, I, I didn’t even know if it, huh.
Speaker 1 00:43:31 Awesome.
Speaker 0 00:43:31 So, and then what is one thing that you would want to tell her survivor?
Speaker 1 00:43:37 There’s no point in giving up. I’m gonna get emotional again. Um, there’s no point in giving up and it’s, it’s so crazy cuz I’m coming. Like it’s been four years and with the things that are going on in my life with my comedy career and the way things are going for me now, weren’t they weren’t going this way for me a year ago. But the way things have started to go for me over the past four or five months, there’s no sense in giving up because all the struggle that you’re going through right now, if you can just remain hopeful and positive, the best that you can, you have no idea what’s in store for you. So that’s what I would wanna say. Um, is there’s there’s no sense in giving up.
Speaker 0 00:44:20 Awesome. I love it. <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:44:21 Thanks
Speaker 0 00:44:22 And Mac, if people wanna connect with you, would you be open to that? Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:44:26 Yeah. Um, I actually really enjoy talking to people about our newly injured, just as a friend and kind of helping them, making them feel less alone. Um, my Instagram is at big Mac Lawson.
Speaker 0 00:44:37 That is very easy to remember. So it’s just big Mac Mac Lawson.
Speaker 1 00:44:42 Yep.
Speaker 0 00:44:43 Awesome. Well thank you so much for being on the podcast and I’m sure we’ll connect really soon.
Speaker 3 00:44:53 Thank you for joining us today on the TBI therapist podcast, please visit TBI therapist.com for more information on brain injury, concussion and mental health. The information shared on today’s podcast is intended to provide information awareness and discussion on the topic. It is not clinical or medical advice. If you need mental health or medical advice, please seek a professional.