Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


I came out of the third surgery lost and broken.
I had no idea where to start. This was new territory, and I had no guide, no compass. I wanted, needed help. But all I found were books about symptoms leading up to diagnoses and acute recovery—there was very little about what happened beyond that point.
At a conference I attended recently, I met a woman who had gone through several harrowing experience. She gave a powerful presentation about her journey. Like me, she wrote a memoir her ordeals. We compared notes about writing our autobiographies. One thing she said struck me. Apparently, many of those who learnt of her memoir assumed it was therapeutic. But according to her, that was not the case—by the time she wrote it, she had already met her need to explore her ordeals long ago.
When I started writing about my journey with the bloody brain, mere days after I returned from hospital, my motivation to write about my own experiences emerged from a need for guidance. My next thought was that other brain injury survivors might benefit from learning of my struggles. The therapeutic value in writing about it did no occur to me until a couple of years later, when my writing coach, Judy, suggested it.
The writing certainly wasn’t making me feel better. If anything, tackling some of the tougher issues was like reliving them, frequently triggering grief or fear, often reducing me to tears, at times causing spectacular meltdowns.
But through my writing, I gained a better understanding of the bloody brain–the bleeds, the surgeries, my path to recovery, and how it turned my life upside-down. Along the way, it also heightened my self-awareness and helped me become more authentic. I wondered—was that what Judy meant by therapeutic? If so, then she was right, writing was a form of therapy, of exploring my reactions, my emotions., my life.
As I think about it now, I realize that facing my demons, remembering the best and the worst, I had found my guide through this mess, this amazing, wonderful, devastating adventure. Which is exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish when I first at down to write my manuscript.
At the same conference I attended recently, I gave a presentation about my life with the bloody brain, past and present. From the reactions I got during and after my talk, I came to realize the I also accomplished my other goal—to help those undergoing a similar journey.