Q&A with Victoria Griffin, Creator of Flooded: A Creative Anthology of Brain Injuries

flooded

 Hello and welcome to  this special edition  of  the blog.  For this week’s post, I am  interviewing my friend and fellow writer, Victoria Griffin, who  has recently put together  an anthology of  writings  on the subject of brain injury. I met Tori a while back  though a  writer’s community and thought  my readers here would be interested. But, there’s more. This is an opportunity for you to get involved in advocacy.    This project in being funded through Kickstarter. The link is below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/victoriagriffin/flooded-a-creative-anthology-of-brain-injuries

Hello Tori. So Happy to have you speak on this topic.

Briefly describe for the readers what Flooded is about.

Flooded is simply  a creative anthology of fiction and creative nonfiction works on the topic of  brain injuries. It includes work of all styles and genres. The anthology is not merely meant to showcase memoirs or personal stories—though they will undoubtedly play a role. Brain injuries take many forms and are often difficult to describe. That’s why the anthology includes  many  genres to explore the experience of brain injuries and concussions, ultimately unifying to create an expansive, truthful representation of brain injuries.

 Sounds like a wonderful project, Tori.

What inspired the anthology?

In January of this year, I took a hit to the head during softball practice. I immediately felt drunk, but the next morning I had difficulty speaking and walking. My trainer assured me the symptoms would be gone within two weeks, after which the doctor assured me they would be gone within three. After four months, two ER visits, an accidental  drug overdose  and a desperate struggle to graduate without being able to read or perform basic, everyday functions, I finally recovered.

On the surface, the concussion cost me my senior season of softball and four months of my life. But in reality, it left scars so deep, they are difficult to describe—which is what prompted me to write about the experience. When I realized there was no publication solely dedicated to brain injuries, I began to truly consider how concussion awareness is approached—with facts and statistics—and how inadequate that is.

So, this was inspired by your own head injury. Wow.  Must have been hard to deal with. I’m sure many people would have given up. 

Tell us what  it was like to live with a concussion.

A brain injury is difficult to describe. I feel like I could write a thousand pages and never capture the experience. I can tell you that my mom said I sounded like a four-year-old, and my dad said my eyes were always dull and lifeless. I don’t remember the first two weeks at all, and after that I would “lose” gradually decreasing sections of time—a few days at first, then a day, then hours, and eventually minutes. When I finally gained enough strength to walk around the apartment, I would get stuck on the stairs and have to call for help. A sound as small as footsteps would send me into sensory overload attacks—which I came to call flooding—during which I would involuntarily curl into a ball and be unable to move, speak, or breathe.

Scary. Go on. 

Have you ever been near to drowning?

I did nearly drown once, yes.  Terrifying.  How was  the concussion like drowning?

Each time an attack happened, I felt like I was drowning. Getting air was more difficult than pressing through the heaviest backsquat I’ve ever attempted. And each attack lasted hours.

Still, all I’ve really described is the physical. Can I explain to you what it feels like to lose your mental capabilities? To lose your language? To not be able to understand words spoken to you? To feel paranoia so strong you can’t look anyone in the eye? To lose your emotions, so that all you feel are the artificial sadness and fear induced by the injury and medication?

I had my own brain injury as a child, so I understand completely.   More about that another time.    I’m glad that you   fought back and overcame the concussion. I know that writing can be very therapeutic 

Why fiction and creative nonfiction?

As I said, I can’t explain to you what it was like to have a concussion, not like this. I can’t tell you what it was like, but I can show you. I can write a story that makes you feel the fear of being alone when a flooding attack happens and wondering if you’ll get help before you stop breathing. I can write a story that makes you feel the overwhelming depression of losing the entirety of your identity. I can write a story that makes you laugh at the silliness of staring at a light for ten minutes because you believed it wasn’t there.

By compiling an anthology of fiction and creative nonfiction, we can use multiple genres, styles, and tones to truly convey the experience of a brain injury. Because it’s not what it looks like or how many people it happens to that matters. It’s how it feels and how it impacts the lives of human beings.

Anton Chekhov is attributed with saying, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Simply telling people about concussions and brain injuries is not sufficient to nurture awareness and understanding. We need to show them.

 So very true, Tori.

What could someone who has never experienced a brain injury gain from reading Flooded?

The anthology is not simply for survivors. While it will certainly be an outlet for them to express their personal realities, they are actually the group of people who (as readers) need the anthology the least.

When I realized I was concussed, my first reaction was to try to hide it because I knew I would be benched. What if I had read an anthology like Flooded? What if I had known what could happen to me? I was lucky. I walked away from my brain injury with no permanent damage, and my poor decision early on did not negatively affect the outcome. But it could have. And for many, it does. Reading an anthology like Flooded may help others to make better decisions in such a situation.

If you have not experienced a brain injury, you might in the future. Or a family member or close friend might, and they will not be able to tell you what they’re going through, not until it’s over. What if you had the opportunity to gain insight into their struggles? I know my friends and family would have leapt at the thought of learning anything about what was happening inside my body and mind.

Concussions don’t just happen to athletes. They happen after a fall or a car accident. They are a part of life that needs to be addressed in literature. At the very least, gaining empathy for another’s pain and struggles makes you a better, more understanding person. Who doesn’t need that in their life?

 Tori, that is very insightful. 

How did your concussion change your life?

The concussion completely altered the course of my life, directly and indirectly. Because of it, I wound up discovering a new passion—freelance editing. But the most significant result of the injury is its impact on my perspective and my worldview. I now have a much deeper understanding of the sorts of challenges some people face every single day—those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and learning disorders.

I also have an incredibly deep-rooted appreciation for the people in my life. We all know that extreme situations bring out the best and the worst in people. I saw people behave in ways I never would have expected. I saw true cruelty, to a degree I didn’t believe people to be capable of, not from strangers but from people who had been in my life for years.

But I also saw extreme compassion and sacrifice. I saw a few friends and family members put their lives on hold to make sure I made it through. From driving across the country to staying with me when I was afraid of what might happen during the night, I can never repay those amazing people, but I will spend the rest of my life trying. And now, I consider of every person in my life, would they be the one to make sure I kept breathing when an attack hit? Or would they be the one to step over me and leave me alone?

 

What challenges do you expect to face in creating the anthology?

Of course, raising sufficient funds to create the anthology is the first challenge. Spreading the word about the project and gathering interest is a trying process, but the incredible amount of support the project has already received from writers, athletes, and the online community makes me incredibly optimistic.

The next challenge will be selecting pieces to fill the anthology. I published my first piece my junior year of high school, and I have six years’ worth of experience with literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. The amount of talent in the literary community is astounding, and when combined with a topic that elicits deep emotionality, I have no doubt the quality of submissions will be superb—and will make choosing 80,000 words of fiction and creative nonfiction a difficult task.

Perhaps the greatest challenge I anticipate is the promotional aspect of the project. Once the anthology is complete, we will need to shout it from the rooftops and get the work into the hands of readers. I have experience promoting my own work, but this is a whole new level. That’s why I’ve allocated a promotional budget to be used for services such as a professional blog tour, cover reveal, and promotional plan. While I foresee challenges in promotion, I believe that the quality of the work and the significance of the work will ultimately entice readers.

 Sounds wonderful, Tori.  Tell us more.

How does Kickstarter work?

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform, which means we set a budget, and if we are a dollar short of that goal, we get nothing. For that reason, the budget I have set is the bare minimum we need to create the anthology. I have also set a target budget, which is the amount it would take to give the anthology the treatment I believe it deserves and, most importantly, to pay contributors an amount that is fair to their work and their talent. Keep in mind that the actual project budget is only 74% of the total budget. The other 26% goes to Kickstarter fees and rewards fulfillment.

What do backers receive in return for supporting Flooded?

Rewards! By supporting Flooded, you become a part of our family, and that does not come without its perks. Your reward will depend on your pledge amount. Examples of rewards are inclusion in thank-you sections on victoriagriffin.net and in the print anthology, a special “behind the scenes” eBook, 25% off editing services, a custom journal, and of course, the FloodedAnthology itself. Dedicated contributors even have an opportunity to receive a “perfect copy,” delivered three months before regular distribution and signed by every single U.S. contributor—an offer that will never be available again. T

 

What’s the breakdown  on how the money is used?

Other than Kickstarter fees and rewards fulfillment, the budget will cover cover art and design, interior layout, Submittable fees, editing and proofreading, promotion, and of course, contributor payments and copies.

How can I help?

Spread the word! Share a link to the Kickstarter page on social media. Tell your friends and family. Help us to turn this project into a movement. And of course, you can visit the Kickstarter page yourself, and pledge to support the project! We would love to have you as part of the Flooded family.

 Tori, thanks so much for stopping by.

 

We’ll have  my own story on brain injury in an upcoming post. Right now, I’d like to talk to you, my loyal readers. Friends,  may I ask you to consider joining this project? Please do check out the Kickstarter page and prayerfully consider getting involved with   Flooded.

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Prayer For Our Nation

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

I am deeply concerned over the state of affairs in my land.  My people  are no longer  bending on their knees in prayer before God but are  railing against one another in anger and in pain.  Gone are the days when Christians lament for their fellow man and woman. Instead,  the Body of Christ is at the forefront of political and social  actions.  They pitch insults at those whose views and cultures are different with such  vehemence that it makes even the fiercest  in our society look like a saint. Do these Christian people really  think this is how God’s children are to  behave? Where is the love that we are to show? How will the unbelievers see our Savior if we do not walk in love?  It breaks my tender heart. We cannot legislate good behavior or right choices, and we cannot demand that  others acquiesce to our world view. The only thing that will change the hearts of our people is the  saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  What that means is that we must get off the political action lines ; stop  fussing at  those who differ from our views on social media, and commit to a life of prayer. When will we leave the work of the Holy Spirit to the Holy Spirit?

There are many difficult issues, it’s true but I recently heard something that shook me to the core. Someone suggested that  the Church could be forced to change its views to keep up  with progressive times.  While the Church may re-examine issues and teachings, the idea that the government could  interfere with this is terrifying. Look at those countries where this has occurred and you will find the religious freedom  was lost. I pray that  this never happens here, but we must not take our freedom for granted in a world that is increasingly secular.

Epilepsy and Disability

 

epilepsy-aware-2016

An important question that maybe asked is how to qualify for disability benefits with epilepsy ?
Under certain conditions an adult with epilepsy may be eligible for disability benefits from social security. The Social Security Administration receives many applications from people for disability coverage. Depending upon the type of seizures and the frequency of them, it is possible to receive benefits. Epilepsy is not necessarily a disabling condition, however it can be. A person seeking disability benefits because of a seizure disorder, must go to the Social Security Administration for evaluation. When the case is evaluated it will be assigned to a claims evaluator. This person will assess the information to find out if in fact the person applying for disability benefits does in fact qualify to receive them. That means that a person who is seeking such benefits must be prepared to provide evidence as to the need. The evaluator will be looking for information on the diagnosis of epilepsy along with a detailed description of the nature of the seizures, and all the symptoms. These all your waiter will take a statement from the doctor about your case to collect information about the frequency of the seizures and all medications that have been prescribed. This person will probably ask you about witnesses in other words he or she will be asking who has seen the seizures. The examiner will be looking for the EEG results, and any more information that can be provided about other treatment and your response to them. This may include blood work. Another consideration will be whether or not you have been compliant with your medication treatment over the past months. The examiner is looking to determine your level of impairment. In order to qualify for disability benefits based on convulsive epilepsy you would need to show that you have at least one seizure a month, a tonic clonic or grand Mal seizure. These should be expected to be seizures does it come the daytime and have a loss of consciousness or nighttime seizures  that interfere with daytime activities.
Adults who have partial seizures may meet the standards required f that person has at least once a week in spite of compliance with medications and those seizures interfere deeply with daily routines and cause a display of abnormal behaviour.
In my own case, my epilepsy has never been disabling. At my worst I had three to five seizures a year and although they were tonic clonic, they did not significantly interfere with my life. Therefore I have never been a candidate for disability except perhaps when I was pregnant.

 

Understanding Copyright Infringement

As an author and artist, I have become aware of the need to protect artistic content from piracy. Do you realize how often someone’s work is copied, or used without permission?  Any time a person copies material from a website without permission, or uploaded their favorite music to shareware, it is a violation of copyrights. Someone with say,”But, I included a link to the original page, so it’s not copyright infringement.”

Actually it is. Don’t get infringement confused with plagiarism. I understand that you are not saying the content you are using is your own; however, if you use the content without permission, it is still an infringement, as it violates the principles of fair use. No one may upload a book to distribute on his or her seller site, which the author did not okay. The same goes for music, or videos.  If you did not create it, you must have permission to use, or distribute.

Content is not free to use simply because you came across it on the internet. I’m beggin’ you; please do not copy and paste entire pages. This is not good note taking, and can easily result in plagiarism (which is claiming a work as your own, when it is not). I hope that all my readers take the time to learn about copyright infringement and plagiarism, so that neither of them is committed.

Please understand that copyright infringement is against the law, and may result in fines of as much as $150,000.

Fringe Dweller

Someone asked me where the boundaries are to the fringes. How can you know if you, or someone you care for is a fringe dweller? Most people can not tell, but there are clues. I had moved to a new area, and begun to attend church services. The first thing I did was sit at the back. This, I did, so that I didn’t feel obligated to stay and chat after the service ended. I am one of the shy people, so a large group of strangers can be frightening. Thankfully, the Sunday School class I began to attend was quite small. Just five that attended regularly. Not nearly so scary. In fact, I looked forward to meeting with them, and building friendships with them all.

Making friends is hard when you are too timid to speak much.
It’s a catch 22 in a lot of ways. I never know what to say to new people, so, often I will just sit quietly in the group, smiling sweetly. But you can’t make friends without talking to people, which leaves me on the fringes. On the job, I’m the same. I do my job well, but I don’t get close. I don’t make lasting connections. Why?
Where, exactly are the boundaries. How can you tell if a person is really a part of the group, or hovering at the outskirts? How do you draw out a fringe dweller, empowering the person to become a vital part of the group?

You probably think a person who wants to wants friendship will just walk up to you with an outstretched hand. Not so. People like me take two steps forward, one step back

The Role of Faith in Healing

The Role of Faith in Healing

Faith plays a critical role in both natural and supernatural healing. It also helps to prevent  the occurrence of health issues.

These are  several things that faith provides  that are as fundamental to our emotional and physical health as food, water, and exercise.

  1. The Support of Community—This is important at many levels, for humans were not created to live a solitary life. Our relationship with others provides us with needed prayers when we are ill, and comfort when difficult times come. Sometimes, we need and accept the advice from those who have lived through what we now face. It is comforting to not go through things alone.
  2. Better Health-People of faith tend to take  care of the physical body, believing that it was created by God. This leads to better health overall
  3. Peace- People of faith  lean on the trusted words  of the Lord such as the verses below.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Or,

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Mt. 11:28)

People of faith are usually devoted to prayer, worship, and other elements of  religious life. What is often found is that worship through music, or the reading of sacred text, brings comfort to the  person. This makes any difficulty bearable.

  1. Love  of Nature’s  Beauty- There is nothing more  uplifting than observing the wonders that God’s hands created.

Religious observance is beneficial to all that participate, but it is more valuable when  faith is well placed. Well placed faith offers a sense of purpose, hope,  and optimism.  It provides the atmosphere for coping with difficulty. It increases social and community support, which means a greater resource for finding help. There are studies indicating that religious life leads to longer and healthier living.

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Why We Celebrate on July Fourth

Many Americans celebrate on the fourth of July. But, how many truly understand what the celebration is about?
The document we now know as the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson during the last half of June, 1776. It is a document that is regarded as our nation’s premier symbol of our establishment as a nation. We celebrate on the fourth of July because it is on this day in 1776, that our Declaration of Independence was ratified. However, there was also a war for our freedom. The war for our freedom was fought from 1775-1783. Precious lives were lost to secure this freedom. So, while you are enjoying the fireworks, pause to reflect on the fact that many years ago, bombs burst in the air, glowing like the flame of the fireworks display, and cannons exploded with a boom like fireworks being shot off. Our forefathers lay down their lives so that we could be free