Integration

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I’ve heard the word “integration” a million times and used it a million times. I talked with someone today who used it a lot in our meeting. Today, I felt like I was hearing it and understanding it for the first time. Maybe I just learned what it means.

This documentary is designed to be an integration of many things, even if I had not realized that word fit it so well before today!

We will be integrating storytelling, art creation, advocacy, activism and more. If you want to go deeper, you could say creating art is a kind of integration. The paint becomes integrated with the canvas; the words of a script and movement of an actor’s body become integrated into a character; the ideas and perceptions of the person creating integrates with the arts materials to become the work of art. I just hadn’t thought of it that way before at all.

We also talked about living with a brain injury as a process of integration. “Rehabilitation” and “recovery” sound like such medical terms to me, like something you have to go through after you get hurt or really sick. The “re” at the beginning of those words hints that you are trying to get back something you used to have. Doing that requires some focus on the past, which can be very, very helpful. It can also be a trap if we spend too much time and energy trying to redo things and relive our lives as if we are the people we were before.

Everyone changes. It’s part of our lives, just as leaves are turning golden and burgundy right now.

Would it change things if we look at integrating ourselves, our lives, skills, losses, and gains and moving forward instead of trying to recover what we had before? I’m so thrilled that I relearned a lot of the things I could not do after my injury. That’s for sure. Rehabilitation and care are tremendously important. They have a huge role in our lives, but they are not the only thing we want and need. Because we are more than just patients.

After my own rehab, even things that seem the same from the outside are different now. I do them differently. They come out differently. I think about them differently. In some things I recovered function, and in other things I just learned a new way to do them. I know this is true for many people with all types of brain injuries.

So I wonder, how do art and art-making integrate into someone’s life after a brain injury?

Does the act of making art make a person’s life feel less fragmented (or more integrated)?

Can we integrate and incorporate things we learn and experience through the arts into other parts of our lives?