Valerie Johnson, Olympia Member Since August 2008 Artist Statement I think that, most importantly I should say that I am a survivor of a TBI: Traumatic Brain Injury. My TBI is considered an "Acquired TBI".
It's been 7 years since I became ill and 14 months since I've been out of the bed and rehabilitating.
Photography, for some reason became intrinsically central to that and I cannot explain why. I’ve always loved taking pictures. I mean, I LOVED taking pictures.
Oddly enough, it never once even entered my mind to become a photographer until after I started rehabilitating. I cannot even fully understand it myself.
It started with my cell phone and then I remembered (lots and lots of memory loss and on very nonspecific areas) that I used to do a lot of graphic design in my work before I became ill.
Somehow it just became probably the most important therapy for to date.
I was also a writer and I was getting published. That skill, however is extremely difficult for me to recover. I did, however meet my very first milestone September 9th of this year, 2008.
For 4 months it never left me. The proposition I came across by pure accident was on a writing essay. For 4 months I tormented over a blank page, terrified to write again. My typing skills are all nearly clinically dyslexic now and my self-editing abilities are poor…to say the least.
I don’t think anyone who knows me thought I would actually get it written due to that lack of self editing from my TBI.
Three days prior to the due date I sent my caregiver away and sat alone so I could face it one on one with no one around.
For three days I slept very little and my head felt like my brain was on fire and was going to bruise from the pressing on my skull, as it often does. Finally I did do it. I couldn’t believe it. Then I did a word count. This was on this past Saturday.
3500 words. 1500 word limit.
I had the immediate emotional urge of overwhelming despair. I had the immediate impulse to give up. How could I edit it down that much?? It becomes a personal sort of thing when you self edit. For me, having an overloaded emotional annoyance within my brain, it was like peeling my own flesh off piece by piece as I tormented over highlight, delete again and again.
I constantly had to fight my own mind or should I say brain? It was a battle that, I knew, if I won, would be colossal… for me. An event that perhaps no one but myself would understand the sheer magnitude of.
Monday morning at 3am, the due date, I did my 999th (jk) word count check and it read 1497.
I thought those numbers were the most magical, thrilling, astounding numbers I’ve laid my eyes on in my entire life.
Those numbers were parallel to, for me, dieing and finding that life after this place was my every hope and dream. That there really is a place where we go in to grow and love and live.
Those numbers told me that I could do it. I could writer again.
I’ve been working on my book for many, many years. Much longer than before I got sick. Breast cancer and other traumas stopped me. I remember very clearly the day I stopped. I was right there too. I was getting noticed. I was getting my work in faster and getting published. Access to the right people was becoming easier.
Now, being 47, it is time to complete those but I intend to make it graphical to include a select section of my photography/digital imagery.
I thought, in regards to becoming a photographer, that, it was some compulsion that would pass but it does something for my brain that I still cannot put into words. It is something that seemingly, I am never going to give up. It is a large part of what defines me today.
Well, other than that, I should advise you that, being on Flickr, to RedBubble, and a little toying around in DeviantArt, and now here….that I get extraordinarily behind in visiting others works, responding to comments and emails, and it bothers the hell out of me.
We brain injury survivors all tend to have something in common whether it’s acquired or from an accident, et