The Good Men Project posted this picture on their Disposability of Men Social Interest Group Facebook page.
When I saw the Top Three categories (Contact Sports, Veterans, and High-Risk Jobs,) I noticed I fit into all three of them. The picture opened my eyes to the fact that any one of those categories on its own could have permanently disabled me or killed me. Football almost did me in when I was a teenager.
I learned that a Traumatic Brain Injury I suffered in 2001, plus a combination of sub-concussive hits and traumatic brain injuries I had leading up to that TBI, disabled me to the point where I couldn’t keep a job, relationships, and hobbies. It all made me think about statistics and if the jobs I did before I was disabled, were some of the most dangerous jobs in America?
Within the top 10 most dangerous jobs, #7 was Commercial Truck Driver. That’s the occupation I was in which dealt me the final blow that led me to be disabled in 2001.
I also held these listed positions:
#12 First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
#16 Maintenance and repair workers, general
#20 Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers
#23 Industrial machinery installation, repair, and maintenance workers
As a young boy, I didn’t think about and wasn’t taught about the dangers of a particular sport or job. I didn’t think my love for sports, the military, big trucks and heavy equipment, electronics, robotics and automation would one day disable me. Most people don’t go to school, work or play to become a Hero. They do it because they love what they do, want to raise a family and contribute to society.
One thing that I hardly mention to anyone is the fact that before “the big one” that left me unconscious on the side of a busy highway in 2001, is that in 1998, 1999 and 2000, I was hit in the head by flying materials and struck my head against objects while doing most dangerous jobs #12, #16 and #23.
Those concussions led to trips to the local emergency department and a week off from work for each episode. Each time I returned to work (not fully recovered,) I was greeted by the most senior managers with a hard hat as a prop for lots of jokes and laughs from my co-workers. They displayed their “manliness” and total lack of understanding about the risks we encountered in those jobs. The ignorance and peer pressure from co-workers and manliness traits played heavily in my decision to go back to driving a tractor-trailer three days after I was laid out unconscious on the side of Route 93 in Salem, New Hampshire. They also played a part in me not getting help for those traumatic brain injuries which led to me losing 13 jobs in fight or flight fits of rage the following four years.
Throw in a dash of serving in the Marine Corps, and the picture above is very accurate. The first time I learned about the disposability of men was when I served in the Marine Corps during the Gulf War. I was part of an air traffic control radar unit (the best of them all) and we were all pissed off when we weren’t selected to deploy. That is when our CO told us about the disposability of men and the need to keep doing the job we were doing stateside in support of the war.
I always strived to be the best, strongest, fastest, most productive, etc. in athletics and in my careers. In many instances, I did make it to the top and stayed at the top for a long time. My co-workers were amazed at what I could do, how I did things and my willingness to teach them. I was often told by co-workers, “You’re too good for this job!”
Meaning they were afraid of losing their job for not being able to work at the level that I did. I saw the fear on their faces and calmed them by telling them I do the jobs I do at the level that I do because I love doing them.
I thought that if I was ever hurt, the insurance policies I had as a safety net would support me and my family. I was wrong! I also expected those working in the medical field to be just as competent at their jobs as I was at my jobs. I was wrong! The medical community was just as clueless as I was about traumatic brain injuries and how to recover from them. Not being able to work meant a loss of the safety net I had in place to support me and my family.
All of this leads to the second and third lines in the picture: Depression, Addiction (self-inflicted or over-prescribed,) lack of judgment, memory loss, dementia and increased risk-taking, homelessness, difficult relationships, violence, and prison. Over the past 17 years of being disabled, I’ve experienced some and witnessed all in other brain injury survivors. I’ve heard way too many stories of suicides in the military and athletic population to last many lifetimes.
Having been a member of The Krempels Center for three years, I’ve seen many men and some women who are just like me. Sometimes I feel like we’re in the Land of Misfit Toys, but happy to be there after all that we’ve been through!
New members arrive depressed and with a look of despair on their faces that shows they too have plunged from greatness into a sea of grief, loss, debt, relationship problems, insecurity, loneliness, unemployment, and disability. They listen to our stories of how we were injured and exclaim, “That’s what happened to me!”
We explain how we’ve persevered against all odds and share our words of wisdom with them. In their eyes you see a glimmer of hope mixed with despair. They begin to realize they aren’t alone, but sad to see so many young men who are disabled and can’t go back to work.
We tell them how the wonderful staff and interns at the Krempels Center have helped us repurpose ourselves by not focusing on who we were, but rather by who we are right now in this present moment. You can still have a good quality of life and be part of a program that inspires you to laugh more than you cry, help others above helping yourself, and work hard to strengthen relationships at home and in the community.
… and the healing begins.
Photo: The Good Men Project