Interview with Alex Bond, Playwright, Actor, Two-time TBI Survivor

I first heard about Alex Bond from a friend of mine. He provided a link to a story about her. I was immediately impressed with this feisty, exuberant, wildly creative woman who also happens to have survived two severe TBIs that left her in a coma both times. She hasn’t let any resulting deficits hold her back from living a life she cherishes.

Be sure to look at the link below to a  moving essay she wrote about her brain injuries and life after such a double trauma. With that, I introduce you to Alex Bond.

You survived two severe TBIs and comas, one when you were a toddler and one in your mid-teens. Surviving one is wonderful enough, but two feels miraculous. Why do you think you not only survived but are still thriving?

I haven’t the foggiest! That “Why?” question is quite a poser.  My answer lies somewhere between “being extremely lucky” and “survival instinct.” Luck got me the immediate medical care I needed after both head injuries, and circumstance surrounded me with loving friends and family who helped me.

As for the survival instinct, I have a “pick yourself up and dust yourself off” attitude towards life. “The show must go on” is a mantra; so are the Navajo song words: “Walk on a rainbow trail, walk on a trail of song. There is a way out of every dark mist over a rainbow trail.”

I have always been creative: dancing, singing, acting, writing. These are the activities that feed my soul. I have always known that. I have always come back to the Arts when I have strayed from them. Wanting to give meaning to a life that has been spared several times keeps me trying to do “something that will matter/help/inspire.”

How did these injuries affect you?

Physically: Occasional double vision when tired or stressed; motion sickness gets worse every year; no peripheral depth perception; an eye that wanders when I am tired or stressed; an occasionally unreliable short term memory; bouts of low self-esteem…

Mentally: I wish that in 1967 doctors knew that a TBI survivor needed psychiatric help following a brain injury! I did not get that help until a year after my trauma. My post TBI life included A LOT of acting-out! I urge anyone with a brain injury to seek a specialist in head trauma psychiatry – it will hasten your recovery – really, no joke, I mean it!

Emotionally: A creative person often has an emotional compass which is very active. Add to that a trauma to the brain (which is indeed the final medical frontier – “We don’t know, we aren’t sure why that happens”) and you have a recipe for mood swings and outrageous behavior, which I am surprised I (and those next to me) lived through. I was in my mid-thirties before I found a calmer emotional place to live.

It’s obvious that you haven’t let these injuries stop you from leading a very full and productive life. What do you do to keep up such a strong, enthusiastic pace?

If one is given the gift of life once, then again, and then again, is there any other choice than to attempt to live a full and productive one? That just makes sense to me. I admit, I make more mistakes than the “average” person; it takes me longer to memorize lines; and there are certain activities (mountain climbing, tightrope walking, being a super hero, going deep sea fishing – not enough Dramamine on the planet) which are simply out of my range of ability. I’m okay with that.

Of all the things you do—act, write plays, produce plays—which is your favorite and why?

Being in front of an audience, being a vehicle for the written word and having that glorious connection with other human beings is my favorite thing to do. (And I kinda like the applause, too!) Whether it is reading from my novel “Late Nights with the Boys” with my dear friend David Carson or performing in a play, sharing ideas and promoting my platform of tolerance for those who are different makes me whole.

You’re a prolific writer. Do you also journal? If so, what’s your practice?

I don’t journal or blog. I write when something inside me says it’s time to do so. That doesn’t mean I am not disciplined. When I decide to write something, I follow it through rigorously to the end. (Evidenced here, I have probably over-written!)

Do you have any intention of writing a play about brain injury? Given the beauty and power of your essay “Where Nowhere Can Lead You,” it doesn’t seem to be a topic you would shy away from.           

Everything I write champions the bravery of those who are different: the outcast, the breast cancer survivors in my play “Lopsided,” the homosexual, the elderly, the TBI survivor.

Additionally, I am absolutely enthralled by the notion that when in a coma, one’s consciousness goes somewhere else. Where is that?  Central Park, another planet, wherever the mango princess lives? (I hope your readers are familiar with “Where is the Mango Princess?” by Cathy Crimmins.) Inspired by my own “unknown” experience, I incorporated the coma destination into a one-act play I wrote entitled “Morning, Noon, and Night in Central Park”. If your readers are interested in reading it they may contact me at alex@alexbond.org.

When things get tough, how do you convince yourself to keep going?

I will call my psychiatrist, listen to music, cry on my husband’s shoulder, wait out the dark moments, yell, scream, go into hiding… and the tough times, those “dark” times, THEY DO COME — usually in the form of depression and/or low self-esteem. My brain starts to tell me “I am not good enough; I am damaged goods; I have been on the planet a sufficient amount of time and I am just taking up space.” I fear abandonment.  If I have suicidal thoughts, I call someone who is aware that I occasionally have them and knows how to talk with me and remind me that the “dark” voice is only temporary.

I recently came off one of those tough times. Several “negative ” (my perception) day-to-day things occurred (including a birthday), and I ran down that spiral staircase that leads me to the depression place.  This one lasted about ten days – quite long.  Five days is the norm. I am very privileged to have a husband who sees me through these times. I have a psychiatrist and friends, too, who are supportive. I guess I could say that their love patiently and gently takes me by the hand and helps me find the other side of the “dark” place.

If there was one crucial point about brain injury that you would like to make to the world, what would it be?

Embrace what makes you different and unique. Try not to associate shame with that which makes you different. The injury has forced an inexorable change. It’s a “new you” – part “old you” plus the you who has come through the “unknown.” We don’t know where we go when we are “knocked out” or comatose. We go to the “unknown” by ourselves, only to fight our way back to a life that is not the one we had before. That is indeed the path of a warrior-survivor!

———————————–

Today’s journaling prompts

If you’re ready to do some private writing in your journal, choose one or more of these prompts to get started. Do your best to write for at least five minutes, and I encourage you to write for 20 minutes if you’re able. Remember, though, if the topic feels too uncomfortable or scary, don’t force yourself to write.

If you’ve had a brain injury:

• If someone wrote a play about me, my character would be played by (name of actor) because…

• If I wrote a play about brain injury, it would highlight…

• Make a list of three to five qualities that make you different and unique. Then write a paragraph about each one, beginning each paragraph with: (Quality) makes me different and unique because…

• I am a warrior-survivor because…

 

If you’re a family caregiver:

• If someone wrote a play about me, my character would be played by (name of actor) because…

• If I wrote a play about caregiving for someone with brain injury, it would highlight…

• Make a list of three to five qualities that make you different and unique. Then write a paragraph about each one, beginning each paragraph with: (Quality) makes me different and unique because…

• I am a warrior-caregiver because…

Explore posts in the same categories: Brain Injury, Family Caregivers, Journaling and Writing for Healing

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5 Comments on “Interview with Alex Bond, Playwright, Actor, Two-time TBI Survivor”

  1. Shaun Best Says:

    I’m a survivor warrior, because I’ve recovered from 41 cognitive challenges. I don’t use the terms brain injured, disabled, retarded, handicapped, etc., God doesn’t like for us to think negatively of His creations/recovered state.


  2. [...] Interview with Alex Bond, Playwright, Actor, Two-time TBI Survivor [...]

  3. rorawlins Says:

    I love your honesty and ability to be so open about the dark places. You are an inspiration!

  4. High Hopes Says:

    A family member was involved in an accident and obtained a brain injury. She spoke to us a lot over the years as she was recovering about brain body connection. We had no idea in the early years how much she was going through because she did not look sick. I think that is the interesting thing about people with a brain injury is that they do not always look sick, so we disregard sometimes how difficult things are for them.


    • That’s so true. When survivors of brain injury look “normal,” it’s hard for others not so challenged to understand the many and various changes that may have taken place. Even some healthcare providers are guilty of this, unfortunately.


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