Part I: From Rags to Bikes – With a Beach and Classroom In-Betwixt

birds wire bike tweet

I have been working hard on my communication skills and now that I have your undivided attention I would like to practice a little. As you might know I am a Traumatic Brain Injury Warrior. I decided to change “survivor” to “warrior” because it embraces my “live, love, laugh, ride” philosophy befittingly. Living with a brain injury is a constant daily battle of endurance for millions of people; I choose to engage the challenge and toss down with all my spunky might. Telling my story is a big step in this often silent war. I won’t get into all the details and symptoms here that tag along for the ride, suffice to say there are many. The story intertwines with life from many years ago (more than I rather admit), with the day I did not die.

Communicating: Let me just say… It’s wheelie hard!

From somewhere in the middle of this tale…

I use to be a teacher. A linguist, multicultural, multi language speaker; I started out teaching Adult ED and Spanish then morphed into 3rd grade dual language and bilingual all inclusive classroom teacher. Purely and joyfully by accident, some of the most amazing days of my life were the days spent with those children. Oh, the stories they could tell… and in several languages at that! Most of those kiddos are now in middle school and high school, some have graduated and are in college or out living adult lives. I know so many of them are making me proud. But I digress, as I often do these days. Therein lies part of the communication issue. I know, we all do it; ramble away, off topic, forgetting what we intended to say… However, for many of us with TBI it’s a torment. Usually for the other person J Made you smile? Hope so! That’s the reason I do this. The reason I ride. The reason I get up each day and greet the day with fierce determination. So if by chance or by design, we meet along this journey, I hope you understand that there is all this passion, purpose, frustration, confusion, goofiness, aspiration and much more, trying to get out all at once, and that sometimes, well, it just gets a little gnarled up in the processing and verbalizing department. Just part of the fallout when a speeding ton of metal hit this girl on a bike.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month -Therefore I thought I would start my story in the middle and give voice to a silent epidemic. Silent because often the full impact and long term consequences that result from mild to moderate brain injuryare not visible.

For more info on TBI look here. Hope you’ll comeback and join bicibits’ journey here on the website, FB, Instagram & Twitter. Also I have a mini blog post on TheBIND.org page “Color Me Rad”

In the mean time, get outside, carry out random acts of kindness & get your ride smile on…

Looking forward to the next installment & all the bike love

Gratefully yours ~Silvana

 

Biking, Brain Injury, and the Road to Recovery: Why I Love to Ride.

Woman riding bike

 

I love to ride my bike because…

I can fly.

I’ve been in love with riding since I was a kid, standing on the back of my brother’s bicycle with arms spread wide open, feeling like I was soaring through the air. That sensation has stayed with me into adulthood, evolving into a passion for road bikes, mountain bikes—anything with two wheels brings back that same experience of freedom and joy.

My passion for cycling is also how bicibits was born. It began with a line of cycling apparel I began working on while I was a school teacher, which grew into a concept for a non-profit bicycle program that would reach out to women and girls in Central and South America, improving access to schools, supporting sustainability projects, and connecting and supporting modest entrepreneurs. I wanted to inspire others, to contribute, to help educate children around the world and to share the experience of freedom that cycling had given to me.

However, in the summer of 2010, I was run over by a car, while out riding and everything changed.

There was not much severe, outward crippling physical damage. But I incurred a traumatic brain injury -TBI. The invisible damage was one that impaired me, and still affects me, in a multitude of ways I could never have imagined. For over two years, I had no memory, and growing cognitive and neurological issues. I couldn’t return to teaching or launch my business, could hardly remember conversations from one moment to the next. I couldn’t even ride my bike.

So, not straying from my true self, I turned my dreams of a new business into an outlet for my abundant energy. I re-learned skills I once had pat, like stringing beads or drawing, as part of my recovery. I learned, slowly, how to coordinate my brain with my muscle memory. It was challenging, but eventually I rediscovered old aptitudes and artistry, like making the sun catchers I used to design back in my 20’s. This time, I started to work in bicycle designs, dreaming of the day I could start riding again.

Each day, with each sun catcher, I got a little better at coordinating my vision with my hand movements. Most importantly, those sun catchers represented hope. Throughout my early stages of recovery, I was focused on returning to teaching, and my big beautiful life and all my plans for the future. I wanted it so badly, but then I’d have setbacks and reality would catch up.

Some of the biggest challenges are mostly due to brain fatigue and stimulus sensitivity. Things that other people find easy can be mentally exhausting and debilitating. Bright lights and loud sounds can overwhelm my senses. My brain injury has had a big impact on my life, my career, and my family. It can be difficult to communicate at times, especially in crowded gatherings, restaurants and retail outlets, anywhere there is a lot of noise and bright lights.

Yes, it’s been a tough, long bumpy ride. Nevertheless, some wonderful things have come out of this experience.

My accident has opened up new opportunities and connections. I have met some amazing people and fellow survivors. I volunteer at the BIND.org and participate in events of BIA USA. I’ve heard inconceivable stories of setbacks and witnessed extraordinary survival. I am one of the lucky ones. It could have been so much worse.

I have gained a greater appreciation now for the fragile and complex wonder that is the brain, and how much we depend on it for every aspect of life. I have grander empathy for others and enormous respect for each moment in time, and I’m acquiring new ways to live my life and reach my goals daily.

All these new challenges and perspectives have led to a new future. This vision for bicibits is simple:

I want to inspire people to “get their ride smile on.” I want to enthuse people to get up and get outdoors, to be active, and to be happy doing it. My wish is for this business to succeed so that I can provide for myself, continue to learn, explore, and grow. To encourage and expand the connection of cycling and a life well lived.

The dream for bicibits is to inspire, to learn, to give hope, and to continue to give back. I want to share my message.

And yes, I was able to get back on my bike. Yes, I still love it.

I love to ride my bike because, after everything, I can still feel those moments where I am flying, free, with the boundless journey before me. My bike, my brain, my body, my company, my new world—they are interconnected for me now, and together they propel me forward.

Pedal on!

~ Silvana