Mistletoe madness


I spent most of my childhood and young adult years feeling out of place; I didn’t think of myself as a normal kid. I could not understand why I had such a difficult time with things that seemed to come so easy to the others.


I was six-years-old when the viral infection made its way into my brain, and it was many, many years later that I was diagnosed with a brain injury. Living within the unknown made things that much more challenging. Bottling up my emotions and refraining from telling anyone about these difficulties didn’t help much either.

There were many things I thought of that might give me some of that ‘normalcy’ in life, but I could never figure out just how to go about getting them.

Enter the mistletoe, a small leafy object that got its recognition during the Christmas holidays. I had witnessed its use in movies, on television, and even in person. I had read and heard stories about its magical aura. As per whychristimas.com:

The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that’s where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from.

So getting kissed under this cheery decoration, I thought, would signify my ‘normalcy’. Well, at least it was a step toward becoming one of the guys, right? I mean getting a kiss, a girlfriend, that’s what being one of the guys means, right?

The idea of some amazingly cute girl kissing me with her lovely lips was a beautiful thing. It was also scary – very scary in fact! So why did I become obsessed with making sure we had this small plant in our house every year?  To this day, I’m not exactly sure I know the answer.

pexels-photo-170383See, I would make sure this delicate Christmas object of affection was put up in just the right spot, and then, I would do everything I could to avoid that spot. I’ve said nothing about this to anyone until now, despite I repeating this ritual for several years.

It was somewhat counter-productive when I look back on it all. It was as if something in me was saying, ‘This is how you become normal,’ while another voice inside said ‘That’s a load of crap!’

These days I no longer bother with the mystical object meant to garner a kiss. I know a kiss won’t make me ‘normal.’ I don’t need anything to make me normal, because  I am normal already.

A kiss is not going to turn me into a prince

A kiss is not going to make me a better person.

But, that doesn’t mean I would refuse a lovely lady.


Mark’s passion to lend a helping hand, offer advice and give back has developed into a moral and social responsibility with the goal of sharing, inspiring and growing – for others as well as himself. His experience as a survivor, caregiver, mentor and writer has led to his credibility as an ABI Advocate and author of his life’s story, Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Koning or go to www.markkoning.com

Your Anti-Valentine’s Day Playlist


Just as Christmas cards seem to appear every year the day after Halloween, doesn’t it seem that we’re barely into January when retailers begin stocking heart-shaped chocolates and miniature teddy bears amidst a sea of red and white? Valentine’s Day!

This ‘celebraion of love’ has become a multi-billion dollar business with consumers spending an estimated $1.6 billion dollars on candy and $1.9 billion on flowers each year.

But what of those who happen to be single? Should they be made to feel less worthy of taking part? In a word, NO! Many people are single either by choice or by circumstance and there is most definitely nothing wrong with that. And for those who genuinely dislike the day, you can take comfort in the following:

  • During the two-week period leading up to Valentine’s Day, American sales of gold jewelry lead to 34 million metric tons of waste.
  • The vast majority of roses sold for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. are imported from South America, wasting fossil fuels.

These facts don’t speak too well for a day especially set aside for love!

But for those who are single and wish to enjoy the day, take heart (No pun intended!) There is nothing to be embarrassed about – indeed, there is much to celebrate. While couples proclaim their love for each other, (and to the world by posting those annoying photos on social media) singles can reflect on the love they have for those in their lives and the love for themselves. After all, there’s no stipulation in Valentine’s Day that people can find enjoyment only if they happen to be committed to a “significant other.” February 14 is simply a day set aside for a celebration of love and who would deny anyone that? So if you are one of those enjoying “the single life,” make it all about YOU!

Use the day to “take stock” and see how far you have come from past challenges. Feel content that you have this opportunity to be alive today and be happy for those you have in your life Make it a day to indulge in things that YOU want to do. Best of all, it’s now mid-February, and we’re a lot closer to spring than we were a month ago.

Finally, here’s a list of songs that celebrate the single life with no apologies needed!

Beyonce, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”

Queen Bey may very well be hanging out with her significant other, Jay-Z on February 14, but this songs extols the virtues of the single life.

Pussycat Dolls, “I Don’t Need a Man”

The title of this song speaks for itself; it reminds us there’s a difference between wanting a partner and needing one!

 Natasha Bedingfield, “Single”

Regardless of how a person may feel about his or her single status, “Single” is a true declaration of independence.

Blaque, “I’m Good”

This song was used in the film Honey and the message is clear: you can be fine whether or not you have someone special in your life.

 Jason Derulo, “Ridin’ Solo’”

The lyrics of this no ‘regrets’ song glamorize the benefits of being single.

And finally, if you REALLY dislike the day, there’s always:

Bekah Barnett, “Saint Valentine”

A humorous song that looks at the day with more than just a hint of sarcasm.

So to all those “singles” out there – ENJOY! Buy yourself a rose or indulge in a piece of chocolate with no guilt feelings. Whether it’s directed at someone else or towards yourself, love remains a powerful force in these challenging times. There is still far too much conflict amongst us, and the need for love is greater than ever. The popular advice columnist Ann Landers once wrote:

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

To this reflection, I say “Amen” – and to every one of you – a happy Valentine’s Day!


The headache and heartache of romance


As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is (supposedly) in the air, but what does that mean to a brain injury survivor? Personally, I’m not a Cupid fan favourite. Are my feelings brain injury related? I don’t know.

heart that says 'stay single'

The thought of recognizing a shared love with close family and friends basically sits well with me. But the celebration of romance? That just gives me a headache. I don’t have anything against the concept of a relationship between two people – whether it’s in a marriage or a ‘going steady’ deal – but the idea of personally entering into a romantic relationship with someone causes an intermittent cranial pain.

I find just the idea of cramming liaisons between two partners into one day overwhelming. I understand that romance is a blossoming thing that is not just about one calendar day, but still…

I’ve experienced a few relationships throughout my life which have resulted in happiness and heartache as tag-alongs. Some of these I’ve written about in my book, Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path.

Nothing I’ve gone through has grown into a long, lasting, relationship. These experiences have, however, lead to feelings of discomfort. I’ve been faced with not knowing what to do or say, and seeing as how I’ve grown up not knowing what to do or say, the feeling scares me. I’ve had, and still have at times, difficulties understanding myself, so trying to understand the opposite sex can result in a spinning effect.

It has taken me some confusion, and heartache, to understand and feel comfortable with who I am. I don’t know if I am ready for anything else.

This ABI has presented so many difficulties, but I think, for me, has also offered so much clarity. I’ve learned to work hard and take things in stride, so perhaps my Valentine is still yet to come.

Mark’s passion to lend a helping hand, offer advice and give back has developed into a moral and social responsibility with the goal of sharing, inspiring and growing – for others as well as himself. His experience as a survivor, caregiver, mentor and writer has led to his credibility as an ABI Advocate and author of his life’s story, Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Koning or go to www.markkoning.com.


Love in the time of brain injuries


My story is not your usual love story.

photo credit: Rachel Marks via Flickr
photo credit: Rachel Marks via Flickr



Relationships are hard under any circumstances, but what if one partner suffers from a brain injury? Now, what if they both do?

Two years into my relationship with my partner, I suffered a minor traumatic brain injury after a day of snowboarding. For years afterwards I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t bear loud noises, which discounted most bars and restaurants. I was tired all the time and struggled to keep up with conversations. Without work or sports I had little in my life to talk about or push for. I needed my partner to make me happy because nothing else did. I wasn’t the girl he fell in love with, and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t a girl I loved myself. We made it two years like this. He never stopped caring for me, but we didn’t know how to make it work. We just didn’t have the tools. Eventually, we broke up.

When we got back together, I was healthier, more independent, and hopeful about my chances for recovery. My boyfriend was doing well at work, and though loud noises still bothered me, I could go out to quieter restaurants or bring earplugs to ones that were a little more lively. I couldn’t be there for everything, but we had enough to share and to enjoy life together.

All that changed again after he fell off his bike and acquired a brain injury. Money got tight. He went through the same loss of identity as I had with no job or activities to discuss or share. I came to appreciate how hard things had been for him after my injury: This wasn’t the man, or the life, I had fallen in love with either.

photo via Youtube
photo credit: PipecleanerCraftsB via Youtube

We had an advantage, though. I was, and continue to be, grateful for everything he had been through with me in my early stages. On my more challenging days I would turn into the person he was six years ago for strength, if he could do it for me, I could for him. The loss of income was hard – he couldn’t take us out or treat us at home like he had – but I didn’t feel like I was holding him back any more, either.

In fact, I fell in love with him more. It is easy to be in love when life is fun. When all you have is a Netflix account and a couple cans of tuna? That’s when the little things count for everything. Every little touch as he passed me in the kitchen or every moment he stayed positive when he could have lashed out mattered all that much more. I developed new respect for him and counted myself as one of the lucky ones. We didn’t have much, but we loved each other enough to not let the stuff we didn’t have get in the way.

I told you it wasn’t your usual love story, but it is a love story nonetheless. The truth is, none of us are born with the inherent knowledge of how to make relationships work. We have to learn. In our case, we did. We learned how to communicate because there was so much we needed to talk about. We learned how to do little things to show affection when we couldn’t afford expensive gifts or nights out. We learned to read between the lines of an outburst and appreciate a smile or a stolen kiss for what it was: everything the other person had to give in that moment.

Photo credit
Photo credit: Peterlevithan.org

Every brain injury case is different and every relationship has its own challenges, but as a couple who has navigated this injury from both sides – both as caregivers and survivors, in a relationship that worked and one that didn’t – this is the Top Ten list of what we have learned. This list is worded for couples, but I believe any type of relationship could benefit from most of these lessons.

  1. Learn how to communicate: This doesn’t just mean saying what you feel as you feel it. It means learning how to clearly tell the other person what you need or what you’re concerned about and learning to hear what they are saying back to you.
  1. Give only what you can: Working on your relationship is important, but so is putting effort into yourself. The stronger you get, the more you will have to give.
  1. Be your best self today: Some days your best self is going to be taking on the world and some days it’s going to be changing out of your pyjamas. Making that small effort is not only going to help you keep pushing forward, but it will also be greatly appreciated by your partner.
  1. Appreciate the small things: Doing as many little things for your partner as you can during the day improves mood, and builds resiliency for when the big stuff hits. Likewise, appreciate them when you’re on the receiving end. If your partner sticks a cupcake wrapper to a pipe cleaner from the kids’ craft box instead of buying flowers because money is tight, take it for what it is – a way of saying, ‘I love you and we’re going to keep going.’
  1. Remember both roles are hard: Brain injury doesn’t just change the lives of the survivor, it changes the lives of everyone who loves the survivorl. That means being extra forgiving on the bad days, for both caregivers and survivors.
  1. Ask why – a lot. Ask yourself why when you find yourself getting mad at your partner. If the stress or pain is getting to you, it’s important to deal with the big picture problem of finding new coping strategies instead of waging a proxy war over who should take the garbage out is going to be much more beneficial in the end.
  1. Plan for the changes. Things are going to change, but it doesn’t mean everything has to stop. Keeping current abilities (or symptom triggers) in mind when making plans leads to far less stress and disappointment and allows you to do much more as a couple.
  1. Get used to being alone. All the planning in the world won’t change the fact that there will be some events that survivors just won’t be able to make it to. In these cases, partners – get used to going out solo. And survivors, let them go. Keeping them at home won’t make you feel better, but they may miss an opportunity to relieve some stress, which can lead to resentment over time. When you are feeling better you can always plan an event that you can both share to make up for it.
  1. Learn to be flexible.This one is hard for those of us who live on a schedule, but the affects of a brain injury can last for years, or even a lifetime. Instead of waiting to get back to the old you, try to change together. Find a new lifestyle that adapts to your abilities. If things go back to the way things were then that’s a bonus, but at least you didn’t lose all that time in between.
  1. Celebrate small victories: When everyday is a challenge, everyday has little battles which can be won. Celebrating small victories helps you focus on the positive and gives you an excuse to do something special together.

The Pinky and Sarah love story


This is the story of how two BIST members – Pinky and Sarah – met  (spoiler alert: it was at a BIST community meeting) and found love. 


Sarah Briggs was 19-years-old in January of 1994, and competing at the provincial level in the seventh race of the season in a downhill skiing event at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que., when she suffered her brain injury.

Two other skiers had already lost control earlier in the competition in a very rough and steep area of the course, halfway down the hill. One had broken her leg.

As Sarah entered the section at a speed of more than 100 kilometres an hour, she lost one of her skis. She doesn’t remember much of the crash, only that she was trying to get up.

Sarah suffered severe facial injuries, lost two litres of blood and required 12 hours of surgery. She spent eight days in the hospital, five of which were in intensive care. Despite this, there was no mention that she might have acquired a brain injury.

Pinky’s real name is Michael Clouthier, but what he writes on his BIST name tag, and what he prefers to be called, is Pinky. He got his nickname in grade seven when his classmates noticed he liked to wear pink most of the time. Over the years, that part of Pinky’s style hasn’t changed. Spot the guy in pink at a community meeting, and it’s likely him.

Pinky says his brain injury is one of the best things that ever happened to him. That may sound strange to most people, but Pinky says nearly dying saved his life.

He says he was a ‘badass’ as a teenager, heading down a path that took him on the wrong side of the law with all the violence and danger that is involved. His mother and a friend each told him he would either be dead, or in prison, if not for a fateful day in October, 1991.

Pinky, then 18 years-old, was riding his mountain bicycle and on his way to a party to sing reggae songs at a friend’s place. He was listening to music on his headphones as he crossed a busy intersection in Scarborough. He never heard or saw the car as it quickly approached him on his right. By coincidence, a close friend happened to be getting off a TTC bus at the moment of his accident. That friend comforted and kept Pinky conscious until the ambulance arrived.

Doctors told Pinky they had to revive him three or four times. He was on life support for five weeks and spent 40 days in an induced coma. Pinky knew as soon as he became conscious that his life had changed. He spent the next year in hospital, learning how to walk and talk again.

Pinky hams it up during a Cougar Bait performance

Pinky says one of his mother’s friends came to visit him in the hospital. The man brought him a stuffed dog and they spoke, briefly, about religion. Their short conversation changed the course of Pinky’s life.

I thought … I went through all this and I’m still alive … (maybe God) has plans for me. God … I’m sorry I had to go through all this to be a believer. – Pinky

Pinky still has the stuffed dog from that fateful day in the hospital. He calls it CB, short for coma buddy, and still sleeps with it from time to time.

After recovering from their physical injuries, both Pinky and Sarah tried to rejoin the world they had known before. Sarah carried on with her life plan after her accident. She finished OAC and moved to Alberta to work on a Bachelor of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “To be a gym teacher,” she quipped.

Sarah seemed to be doing well, until she got into her fourth year. That’s when her workload changed and she noticed that everything became much harder. She also noticed she was not making good decisions in her personal life. She decided to move back to Toronto and re-enrol at the University of Toronto, closer to family and friends. It took her six years, in all, to finally finish her bachelor degree. The stress, however, was too much for her and Sarah suffered a mental breakdown.

Not one to give up, in 2000, Sarah enrolled in teachers college at Queens University. Her workload was even more intense than the fourth year of her bachelor’s degree. Things did not go well when, three weeks into school, Sarah began a teaching placement in Peterborough.

I was just trying to act like everything was normal. I didn’t know I had a brain injury. – Sarah

Sarah underwent a number of examinations and tests to try to determine what could be causing her problems. Finally, the doctors diagnosed her brain injury symptoms and told her she had probably suffered an acquired brain injury as a result of her skiing accident.


Sarah withdrew from teachers’ college. She says she had trouble, similar to other survivors, accepting her new reality and life. With her new diagnosis, Sarah entered the first stage of recovery, denial.

Sarah tried to go on, moving in with a sister and brother-in-law. She helped to care for their four children as a live-in nanny would. She worked part-time as a ski instructor in winter and at various odd jobs in the summer such as landscaping.

Pinky tried working at Walmart, but he had trouble keeping his interest in a job for very long. So he worked at almost every position in the store, except the cash register. After a year, he left.

At BIST community meetings, Pinky will often one of the first members to introduce himself to a newcomer. He’ll break the ice and calm first-timer nerves by showing off his rhyming-on-the-spot skills. (He can rhyme pretty much anything, except for the word ‘orange’, he says.) He enjoys music, sings and raps – even about his accident. When he and a partner decided to start a karaoke business the year after he left Walmart, Pinky thought his extraverted personality and love of music meant he was bound for success.


For three years, at least, there was success. Pinky found he had no patience dealing with drunken customers at various bars around the city. But the venture did give Pinky, an avid wrestling fan, the opportunity meet retired professional wrestler Reginald ‘Sweet Daddy’ Siki, who also happens to be in the karaoke business in Toronto.

One day in 2005, a friend told Sarah about an organization for people with brain injuries. Sarah’s friend had also suffered a brain injury after a car landed on her car from an overpass. This friend took Sarah to her first BIST meeting. Sarah says she noticed another survivor, Pinky, as she went to BIST events.

I was in awe, because I was so devastated by this thing (the brain injury) and I saw this guy. He was so positive and he was making people laugh. [His brain injury] hadn’t totally destroyed him. I thought that was so cool. – Sarah


Someone once asked Pinky how come he is so happy and he replied, “Like Tupac said, ‘keep your head up’…in all things.”

Pinky says he noticed Sarah too:

I thought she was a high-class woman. I (really) didn’t think she would be interested (in me). – Pinky

Both were in relationships with other people when they met, but they got to know each other as they went to more BIST meetings. Getting to know Pinky over the next three-years helped Sarah get to the point many survivors face, acceptance. “Well, this is new me, and I can live with that,” she said.

Sarah says she and Pinky eventually exchanged phone numbers, but Pinky didn’t call. Sarah later recalled being on a dinner date with someone, who happened to be friends with Pinky, and all she wanted to do was talk and ask questions about Pinky.

She was at a jazz festival in the summer of 2008, when Sarah decided to ‘take the initiative’ and call Pinky. He came by with a friend, in a car, and picked her up. The two started dating, and the “rest is history”.

Early in 2009, Pinky and Sarah were finishing a presentation about relationships after brain injury at BIST. Pinky asked Sarah to close her eyes. He told the crowd that he had to make ‘good’ on his words as he got down on one knee, pulled a small box from his pocket, opened it, and asked Sarah to marry him. They were married that summer.

Pinky has another reason to smile and another ‘best thing’ coming into his and Sarah’s life soon. They are expecting a baby this July. Pinky laughs when asked about his thoughts on becoming a father:

Daddy O…Daddy Pinky. What do you want Pinky Junior?

John Stevens is a former writer, journalist and television producer. He is a nine-year brain injury survivor and six-year member of BIST. This is his first feature since his injury.

St. Valentine’s is the patron saint of epilepsy


Let’s face it. The month of February doesn’t have a lot going for it. Yes, the days are getting longer, but the weather remains cold and there are still several weeks to go before there’s any hint of spring. So it seems somewhat ironic that a day positioned exactly half-way through one of the bleakest months of the year should be set aside for a celebration of love and romance. Doesn’t it?

photo credit: Vintage Valentines Day Postcard via photopin (license)
photo credit: Vintage Valentines Day Postcard via photopin (license)

The history of Valentine’s Day

But February 14 wasn’t always about candy, flowers and professions of love toward a significant other. Instead, the history of Valentine’s Day is somewhat grim.

Valentine’s Day evolved as a celebration of Valentinus, a Christian priest and physician living in Rome during the third century A.D. There remains some confusion about Valentinus – and in fact it is thought he may have been two different people – but one story says that Valentinus was imprisoned for performing weddings of soldiers who were forbidden to marry. While in jail, he made friends with his jailer, Asterius, who had a visually-impaired daughter. Valentinus fell in love with her, and the feeling must have been mutual, for she continued to bring the doomed priest food and messages.

Through his faith, Valentinus was able to regain her sight and he convinced both her and her father to adopt Christianity. Shortly after, he was made to appear before Emperor Claudius. Impressed by his humility and dignity, the emperor offered him one more chance to revert to Paganism. But Valentinus refused to relent, and his attempts to convert the emperor to Christianity were unsuccessful. Shortly before his execution, he signed a farewell message to the jailer’s daughter, signing it ‘from your Valentine.’

Valentinus was beheaded on February 14, A.D. 270.

For centuries, the Romans had celebrated Lupercalia on February 15, a festival marking the return of spring and a celebration of fertility. Young men would draw names of young women who would be obligated to act as their ‘companions’ for the duration of a year. (Clearly, equality of the sexes had a long way to go!) Pope Gelasius eventually ended this pagan festival and instead of men drawing names of women, both sexes drew names of saints, with the idea that the person would have to emulate the ways of that particular saint over the next twelve months.

Valentinus himself was eventually made a patron saint, a sort of ‘spiritual overseer’ of the festival, replacing the pagan Lupercus as the patron saint of love.  In AD 496, Galasius declared February 14 to be the Feast Day of Saint Valentine. Soon young men began the custom of offering handwritten greetings of affection to women they wished to court.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t for another 1,000 years, during the High Middle Ages and the time of courtly love, that the celebration became more widely spread. One of the earliest Valentine cards was sent by the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415; the card is now preserved in the British Museum.

image of the oldest known Valentine's Day card
source: BBC

As a day celebrating love, February 14 had become firmly established by the 17th century and by then, it was customary to give greeting cards and “keys” to unlock the heart. The late 19th century brought the first commercial cards and the tradition continues to this day, with Valentine’s Day remaining one of the busiest times of year for card-sellers.

Valentine’s Day and Epilepsy

Epilepsy has been recognized for at least 4000 years. The ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Aztecs and Incas, considered it an affliction linked to the gods. Though there was never a rationale behind why some were affected by it, the disorder was long perceived as supernatural, an evil demon bestowed by the gods as a punishment inhabiting the body of an unfortunate soul. Christianity maintained this perception and there are several references to epilepsy in the New Testament.

But how does Saint Valentine fit in? For one thing, there is a phonetic similarity in the German language between the words ‘fallen’ (fall) and Valentine, and this led to epilepsy as being referred to as the ‘Saint Valentine’s illness.’ Yet in non-German speaking areas, the connection was naturally not as strong. For example, in France, it was generally to Saint Jean to whom people turned for help, while in Anglo-Saxon countries, it was most often Saint Paul.

Nevertheless, Saint Valentine was viewed as a performer of miracles, did he not regain the sight of a young blind woman? And it was claimed that he had freed a young woman named Serapia about to be married from an evil spirit – was it epilepsy?

Stories about his cures would have spread far and wide, thus enhancing his reputation and increasing the number of those appealing to him for help with epilepsy. It was thought by some that Valentinus himself may have had suffered from epilepsy.

In this way, he became the epilepsy’s patron saint.

In Italy, the connection is deemed to be so close that in 1988, Saint Valentine’s dual role as a patron of lovers and of epilepsy was depicted on a postage stamp. The saint is shown hovering over two lovers who are lying down while above them, brain waves from an EEG test stretch across the centre. Trust the Italian postal service – Poste Italiane – to show such imagination and creativity!

Valentine's and epilepsy
source: mindhacks.com

Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day, try to approach it with an open mind and an open heart. If you are currently without a “significant other,” then reach out to family and friends, or perform random acts of kindness to strangers, not only on the 14th, but throughout the entire month. (You can also send a brain-o-gram   and spread brain injury awareness!)

Is this great world ever in desperate need of love! Was it really 50 years ago that Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned “What the World Needs Now (is love sweet love)” immortalized by Jackie de Shannon? The sentiment remains truer today than ever. There is still far too much conflict amongst us, and the need for love is greater than ever. The popular advice columnist Ann Landers once wrote:

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

To this reflection, I say Amen – and to everyone – a happy Valentine’s Day!

Source: celebratelove.com + epilepsy.org.uk

This Valentine’s Day – fall in love with YOURSELF


After you’ve gone through a life changing event such as a brain injury, the person looking back at you in the mirror can be a stranger. The reflection may still look like you, but the mannerisms, the thinking and the constant feeling of ‘there’s something missing’ can be overwhelming. This disconnect can affect not only the relationship you have with yourself – how you take care of yourself, set boundaries and your self-confidence – but also the relationships you have with others.

To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.”- Robert Morely

Don't forget to fall in love with yourself - Carrie Bradshaw
One of the hardest challenges I faced during my recovery was learning to love myself, after the accident. As I wrote in Change Your Shoes; Change Your Life  for the Soulful Relationships – Adventures in Manifesting series:

As weeks turned to months and months turned to years, the pain and torment at the loss of me pre-accident did not lessen. At times, it seemed even more painful than the physical pain I dealt with every day. Everyone tried to assure me things would get better, but each time I looked in the mirror I saw a stranger in the reflection that looked back at me.”

BIST - Love Yourself FirstI’m not going to sugar coat things. Friends, learning to love yourself can be difficult, especially after a traumatic, life changing experience. Self-love is about total acceptance. It’s about deeply caring for yourself and your happiness. It’s about loving yourself at this very moment and every moment, unconditionally. With small steps you will move forward and start loving that fabulous person looking back at you in the mirror!

Here are 3 small steps to get you started:

Change Your Thoughts – Our thoughts are important, they create our reality. Start focusing on things that you can do, things that you want to happen in your life. The more positive energy you put out there the more positive things will start to materialize. When the doctors told me I would never wear high heels again, I kept telling myself I will wear heels. I visualized myself wearing heels and now,  over time, I am wearing heels. Maybe not for the length of time I once used to, but I am wearing heels!!!

think positive and positive things will happenStart a regular practice – meditation, yoga and gratitude journaling are three tools that I use. Not only do they provide “me time”, but these practices allow you to connect more deeply with yourself. The more you are able to connect with yourself the more self-healing continues to happen.

Treat yourself – take yourself out for a nice dinner, a day/afternoon at the spa, an afternoon cup of tea or do something that you really enjoy. The important thing is making time in your day to do something special for yourself and to focus on not feeling remotely guilty about putting your iPhone on silent and spending time on YOU.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, whether you have a sweetheart to share it with or are spending it solo, do something for yourself that encourages you to get to know yourself better, to take care of yourself and to fall in love with yourself again. After all, your happiness starts with the best LOVE AFFAIR you will have, the one with yourself.
self love jar
Make a self-love jar  
A self-love jar is a great project you can make for yourself to remind you of how wonderful you are, especially on days when you’re feeling  down. Fill it with positive self-love affirmations, positive things that people have said about you, things that you like about yourself or self-love quotes you have come across. What is important is that the words are positive, motivational and inspirational.

You will need

  • 5 recipe card size pieces of coloured paper
  • paper cutter (or scissors)
  • jar with lid
  • ribbon or decorative Elastic Bands
  • pen or marker

How to Make Self-Love Jar

How to make it

  • using paper cutter (or scissors) slice each recipe card into 5 strips (about ½” in thick)
  • write a positive message (quote, affirmation, something about you)
  • fold pieces of paper (you will have 25 pieces) with writing on the inside and place in jar
  • place either ribbon or decorative elastic band around jar and replace lid


Various Self-Love Jars

How to use it 

When you are feeling down pull out a piece of paper and read the message. It will remind you of something that is positive and/or amazing about you!!!  Place message back in jar for another time.


Celia Missios
Celia Missios

Celia Missios is a brain injury survivor who has embraced her new found strengths and created a life that fits who she is today. She shares her journey in hopes that it will help others who are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress and facing transition in their life successfully move away from fear, pain, and deflated attitude about life – step into the life they want. Celia is the founder of the blog High Heeled Life – inspiration for living a luxurious and balanced life; featured author in Adventures in Manifesting – Soulful Relationships; a Peer Mentor with BIST; a regular speaker for Canadian Blood Services – Speakers Bureau. To learn more about Celia and be inspired visit www.HighHeeledLife.com or www.CeliaMLifeCoach.com