Site icon Karissa Block

Jordan Berry. Rebuilding His Identity After a 17-day Coma

Jordan’s story is intriguing. He had a lot of second chances. He made a ton of mistakes. And after coming out of a 17-day coma, he was determined never to end up there again. 

After months of introspection in hindsight, Jordan realized he never took the time to really get to know his own identity.

Why is this important? Because understanding our identity is the narrative we live by. Our identity is who we think we are. It defines how we talk to ourselves. It plays a role in our behavior, our choices, and ultimately our overall wellness.

Jordan was born with spinal bifida meningocele. 

In short, this is an incomplete development of either the brain, the spinal cord or the protective covering around usually one or the other. 

In some cases, this can be detrimental at birth, and a life full of difficulties and challenges lie ahead. In Jordan’s case, the problems didn’t come to light until he was about 18 months old. Luckily his mom was gung-ho about getting her son the care he needed. 

At age 7, Jordan underwent surgery to cut away a tumor from his spinal cord. During that time he was in the hospital for about 3-4 weeks, and at his young age, he didn’t think much of his situation. He enjoyed watching endless movies during his recovery and his personality lent him to be in good humor about his situation. 

After this surgery, he started to experience some neurodegeneration that would lead him to need ankle reconstructive surgery in his teens. He later commented that this is a very difficult surgery. After all, our ankles hold the weight of our entire body. Bad ankles can affect our alignment and lymphatic system too.

Unfortunately, his self-image suffered greatly due to his physical ailments. 

In school, Jordan faced all of the normal challenges and pressures of his peers and succumbed to the temptations and pleasures found in experimenting with marijuana and partying. 

It’s part of being a kid though, right? We all get it.

It wasn’t until many years later that Jordan was able to reflect that he didn’t really express himself during those trying childhood years.

He learned to stuff his feelings and searched for pleasureful ways to escape the confusion and to numb any discomfort he felt. It seemed that things just kept accumulating and he couldn’t smoke enough weed to feel better. 

I think many of us can relate to those confusing, emotional, uncertain teenage years where we attempt to figure out just who we are … our identity. 

For Jordan, it was just the beginning of a very long, trying and turbulent road.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, but smoking weed was an attempt to glaze over all of the feelings and crap that accumulated throughout my youth.” 

His second surgery, which was the reconstruction of his ankle at age 17, left him feeling down and made him look very poorly at himself. 

Although he had an upbeat temperament, there were many emotions whirling around within Jordan that he never addressed or expressed; he just kept on keeping on and tried to put his best foot forward. Literally and figuratively. 

  “I tried not to let the physicality get to me. But because I never really had a strong identity of myself, you know, I never was really able to create deep bonds with other people around me. I was always very guarded with letting people in and really get to know who I was, mainly because I didn’t know who I was.” 

Jordan recounts that he enjoyed high school and had a lot of friends in many different cliques.
Although he does admit that he didn’t have any considerably close friends with whom he felt utterly accepted and that he could genuinely be and express himself. 

For those of us who understand what it’s like to endure hardship and juggle life’s difficulties, all the while trying to save face, it’s easy to understand the feelings of hypersensitivity Jordan felt. 

You don’t want people to know how you are feeling. You hide who you really are. You feel exposed. Vulnerable. Judged. Criticized. It can be painful. And extremely lonely.

As it were, Jordan survived.

And just a few short years later, he got married at age 21. 

As he began to walk down the path of matrimony, Jordan put all he had into their first home and looked forward to building a life with his bride. 

Eventually, they had a son. And soon enough, his family became the priority.

Jordan put himself on the back burner.

It wasn’t long before he began to realize that he was hurting badly from all the stressors of his youth. I mean, he’d been battling neurological issues since birth, and even though there were attempts made by his parents to get him some psychological counseling in his teens, Jordan himself never really came to terms with anything he’d been feeling… for years.

When the normal pressures of life and marriage started to weigh on him… he lost it. 

“I was living a lifestyle that I wasn’t fully on board with. I think I had developed a false identity as a family man and a father, but really, I felt trapped. This is when things began to crumble. I had not addressed any of my past trauma and now I’m a parent. Our child became the focus.”

Jordan explained how hard it was for him when he realized he had all this backlogged shit like PTSD and anger that he never really addressed. He wasn’t okay with his life and it showed.

At that point, his wife was not supportive of Jordan’s dwindling wellness, because her focus was solely on their son. It wasn’t long before his marriage fell apart.

Jordan’s false identity was destroyed by his divorce.

Only later was he able to see this as a blessing, the ultimate catalyst that led him to find himself and define his own identity… but not before nosediving down a path of self-destruction. 

After his divorce, Jordan began the self-medicating journey of experimenting with drugs. He plummeted off the deep end. 

Jordan spent a lot of time explaining to me the horrible life he lived as an addict. Up until his divorce, he explained that marijuana was his main means of escape. After the divorce, he started to experiment with psychedelics… and eventually narcotics. 

“I’d always tell myself it wasn’t addiction because I wasn’t addicted to one thing. I shifted from one drug to another. I was addicted to everything… anything to soothe the pain I guess.” 

Jordan explained to me the years of collateral bullshit he endured that fed his pain and fueled his addiction. He was broken on the outside and on the inside.

He felt helpless and lost. He felt stuck and his behaviors kept him stuck.

He explained to me about his Xanax-benders and the dark hole of drug abuse he lived in. 

He didn’t want help. He never sought counseling. And even though he found himself suicidal, he reverted to numbing his feelings with more drugs. 

One day when Jordan missed an important meeting at work (yes, somehow, this guy still managed to hold down a job), the HR department contacted his family to do a wellness check. 

It was that dreadful day that Jordan was discovered at home, passed out in a pool of his own vomit, facedown at his desk. 

And this is when it all came crashing down. Jordan’s rampant drug abuse sent him into a 17-day coma. This coma caused even more neuropathic damage to his already messed up legs. 

I told Jordan he was lucky to be alive. He told me this wasn’t even the end.

He woke up from his coma. He had to go to an 8-week rehabilitation hospital to relearn to walk, talk and eat again. He told me that the pain of the regenerating nerves in his legs was the worst pain he’d ever experienced. 

He explained to me that at this hospital, he was some 40 years younger than every other patient, and he later recounted that his time in this hospital really opened his eyes that he needed to take care of himself. 

The deal when he left his physical/occupational rehab hospital was that he would then go to drug and alcohol rehab for 5 weeks thereafter. 

He explained to me how isolated he felt. He didn’t know how to change the dark thoughts that seemingly took over his mind. He just went through the motions. Once he completed his stint, he made his way home.

You’d think this crap would get old by now… but within days of returning home, Jordan dove right back into drinking, using Xanax, and whatever else he could get his hands on.

Within a year Jordan got three DUIs. (Two before the coma, and one after.) 

Due to technicalities, Jordan got off on the first two DUIs; but the third was the final straw. Higher than a kite, he crashed his car through a transformer in his neighborhood that knocked out the power to hundreds of homes. He tried to crawl away from the scene when he was arrested. And he actually went to jail this time.

“It was the best thing to ever happen to me.” 

In December of 2016, Jordan was held accountable for all the bullshit from the previous years. 

He had to enroll in a court program that consisted of mandatory counseling and daily drug/alcohol testing. He didn’t want to be a part of this program by any means.

He said just a few weeks into his counseling he actually thought, “this is nice. I can talk about my shit and I don’t feel judged.” 

He said it helped that he ‘clicked’ with his counselor, and hearing others’ stories and seeing that they didn’t want to be there either made him feel better too.

“The whole thing was good for me because I was able to start reconciling some shit.”

Jordan admitted that for the first time he was able to talk openly about everything he’d felt throughout his not-so-easy life. 

***This is what I’m talking about people. We have to talk about the shit. We have to resolve how we feel about what we experience, whether it’s from our youth or a recent occurrence. It is important to get it out! It is so valuable to talk, connect and show each other we care about each other. It is so ‘normal’ in our society to just hold in the hurt, but ultimately, the sharing is where the healing begins. ***

Jordan and I agreed that opening up and actually being honest in our conversations is not easy. 

Nor is it a simple process to retrain yourself how to cope with your emotions. We all have thought patterns that occur and many of us are unable to separate our feelings from our thoughts.

For example: “I feel poorly” –> “I must be a shitty person.”   

The first is a feeling, the second a thought. 

You have to remind yourself that these feelings won’t be there forever, and the thoughts are just something we buy into… it doesn’t mean they are true facts. 

“Counseling is what needs to be done,” Jordan confidently states. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around counseling. Like, “Oh there must be something wrong with you. But it creates neuroplasticity which makes it a lot easier to deal with the intense emotions that come about.” 

Take it from someone who somehow made it back to shore after going way off the deep end and damn-near drowning.  

Jordan admits if his court-ordered counseling happened before his coma, he probably wouldn’t have fully bought into the program. But he was literally on his last leg of hope. His coma and car accident finally scared him off of the drugs, and the program gave him the tools he needed to slowly piece his life back together. It still took him two years from the enrollment in the program to be where he is now. 

 “I’m definitely the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been despite having even more physical limitations now than I did 4-5 years ago.” 

Jordan currently wears a boot on his right leg and shares that he is still recovering from what his body has been through.

Throughout his whole ordeal, he’s finally been able to find his identity.

 “I’m going to be me and do my thing. A lot of people bend over backward to please others instead of setting boundaries that actually protect us. Through all the shit I’ve been through, one of the greatest benefits I’ve come to hold onto is being able to care about myself first and know myself a little bit better than I did when I was younger. I know what my needs are and I am able to set boundaries for myself. And I’m okay if others are upset with me or they aren’t on board with it because this is what I need for me.” 

He thanks the program for teaching him self-care. Now, he has a regular workout regime that helps him stay on track, focused and healthy. He reminds himself daily about the things he has worth living for. 

He proudly proclaims that he is a better parent to his son than he ever was. He admits to not being around for many years. He is so thankful his son’s mother raised their son to be kind, gentle, and able to vocalize how he feels, something Jordan only recently adopted for his own life. Jordan cherishes every moment he spends with his son. 

“It’s important to have a deep understanding of who you are, what your core values are, and how you want to live your life. I think so many of us are shambling through life and not looking at the person we want to be versus the person we are. Once you can identify that then you can move towards the direction of ultimately becoming a better person. I think I’ll be a work in progress for my whole life.”

I loved hearing Jordan’s story.

He opened up and went to those deep ugly places that many fear to acknowledge, let alone reveal.

He humbly admitted to the struggles he’s faced, many of which he brought upon himself. 

His journey has led him to find and protect his identity, to prioritize his wellness, and ultimately, to connect with himself and others on a genuine level, which is where the healing really lives. 

I applaud you Jordan… for going ALL THE WAY there.

Exit mobile version