This is the fourth in our series of profiles for Brain Injury Awareness Month. In partnership with the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), Nutcase is donating $2 from every helmet sold on nutcasehelmets.com this month to BIAA’s ongoing efforts to enlighten and educate people on brain injury and brain health. We’re also matching donations from you (up to $1,000) at bit.ly/biadonation. And for a few more days, two lucky donors of $25 or more will win a free Nutcase helmet!
It’s safe to say traumatic brain injury was the last thing on Kate Durie’s mind when she got up from the table of a local Ottawa restaurant in January 2011.
She was 30 years old and would have described herself as driven – a hardworking, newly married HR professional striving to get ahead in her career. She was a perfectionist, an overachiever.
“I was an ambitious, hardworking – workaholic! – passionate career woman. A little Type A. I had a plan. I was on plan. Nothing seemed out of reach,” she says of herself back then.
Then she fell down the restaurant stairs on the way to the restroom and woke up in the hospital.
For months, she says, she struggled to regain her health, suffering from migraines, nausea, and fatigue. What was nearly as stressful, Kate says, is that along with the TBI she was also suffering from grief and depression over the loss of her life and her former self. She had to give up her HR job as it was too much stress both physically and mentally, especially at the frenetic pace she had formerly maintained.
Kate credits yoga and meditation for leading her to a new life that, while different from her old one, is filled with promise and possibility.
“Yoga was such a transformational healing tool for me during my recovery, physically, cognitively, mentally, emotionally,” she said.
Kate decided to train as a yoga teacher. As a TBI sufferer, she may have moved too quickly, pushing for achievement without giving her brain the long recovery time it needed.
“I’m not gonna lie, the yoga teacher training nearly killed me. For better or worse, I was born with a drive to make the most of this life I have been given and tend to push on the edges of those boundaries. In some ways, this was elevated by the TBI, because I have to believe that what happened to me, happened for a reason – TBI has been a brutal and brilliant teacher.”
In addition to the teacher training Kate trained to be a Blissologist, yoga therapist, and life coach. Now, just past the four-year anniversary of her accident, she is thriving, and mindfully aware of both her limits — she still suffers from pain, headaches and other physical symptoms – as well as the life renewal that her practices have offered her.
Her TBI has given her, she says, an opportunity to figure out what is really important, and it’s not the high-powered career or material posessions she might once have coveted. Instead, she’s searching for ease, flow, and joy in life.
“I believe that the first step is to go inside,” she said. “Get quiet. Listen. Face what needs to be faced. Heal what needs to be healed. Meditation. Yoga. H’art. These are 3 of the most powerful tools for getting into these places.”
Because of her injury, Kate was initially unable to do some physical activities she once enjoyed. At her four-year anniversary, she purchased a Nutcase helmet to encourage herself to get back to ice skating on her hometown Ottawa canal that is the world’s longest ice rink. She also hopes to begin biking when the weather turns more spring-like.
Like other people who have had TBIs, Kate now knows how fragile and also how resilient the brain is.
“It breaks my heart to see kids and adults participating in winter activities – skating, tobogganing, skiing – without a helmet,” she said. “I don’t think the average person realizes, consciously, how precious the cargo is between your ears. We need our brain for just about every single thing we do. An injured brain impacts every aspect of your life. Unlike bones, brains take herculean efforts and sometimes miracles to heal.”
Loving your brain, Kate says simply, means protecting your brain. She plans to work with the Brain Injury Association of Canada on a series of short yoga videos to aid people with TBIs. Find her on the web at www.katedurie.com.