STANDING Tall on “The Hill”

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Growing up I was taught to always set my pride to the side, that this was not always a great thing to show. Well, I have learned a totally different aspect of this word over the past few years. It is my belief pride can be an obstacle that stands in our way, but I have cultivated some truth and knowledge of what this word actually can represent.

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Last week I learned much more than I thought I already knew on this word… I visited our nation’s Capital in Washington D.C. for Congressional Brain Injury Awareness Day. With recently becoming incorporated for my Brain Trauma Organization, Share Your Strong I felt a strong push inside me to be a part of this event. So what did I do? I spent all day online getting in touch with The Brain Injury Association of America to get invited. I probably left over a dozen messages to 3-4 different people on the board and never heard anything back that Wednesday. I get up the next morning and my phone was buzzing off the hook with call backs. I was so stoked this was happening because I had already contacted my sponsor and made plans for my executive director and myself to fly it on up there. I was determined to go!

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When I spoke with The BIAA they were ecstatic that I was interested in being a part of this event. They were very interested in my new organization, and invited me to come in 2016 and have a booth there. When I got off the phone I could hardly breath, I was so overjoyed this was actually about to take place. I went out for a run to clear my head before I approached the details with my Executive Director.

“Running is one of the best solutions to clear the mind.” ~ Sasha Azevedo

I realized a little something on pride as I ran that day. I was so proud of myself for making the attempt to go, however hard the effort was to get it done, I was proud I didn’t just quit and say oh well this is just too hard… I used the same perseverance I maintain with my running and training to accomplish this. And honestly I let those moments of being in that wheelchair guide me the whole day just as I do as running the roads I was running at that moment! I sincerely envisioned that little girl sitting in that chair the whole time I made all that effort… Just as that memory has gotten me so many other places in my life, I realized running that day it was taking me to really one of the most historical and prestigious places in our nation!! It was a proud moment no doubt about it.

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We left for Washington on Tuesday, March 17th. One of my dear friends I met through my modeling met us girls at the airport in Washington and took us to our hotel, which was only a few blocks from the Capitol. During the ride she was gracious enough to tour us around this beautiful city and show us where we would be going for the next day’s events… The excitement grew so much in my heart that I was actually in this city, the place where so much history was developed and the place where I was actually going to be speaking so much of the mission I have been on most of my life….

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Walking into The Rayburn Capitol Building that morning of Congressional Brain Injury Awareness Day was so blissful, this is the only way I can describe it. We walked and found The Fair/Expo going on a few rooms down. This Fair consisted of different areas of Brain Injury Advancements, or Associations. There was military there, hospitals, colleges, senators and many areas I have been studying over the past few years. One booth that jumped out to me was The Drexel University booth. The professor at this booth was amazed when I told him I was a brain injury survivor of 22 years. The first question he asked me was what medicines did you take and how did you rehabilitate from the early 90’s. I looked at him funny as he asked me all this. I said in a joking voice that was 1993, I came home with no medication and of course I continued my occupational rehab and physical for a while but after that I was on my own to deal with it all and I told him then that’s what I did. He asked me how I dealt with the stages of a brain injury that was a tragic as mine was. I told him I continued my rehab which was remaining active. And I let him know this is what I encourage everyone I meet to do, get out and get active to restore your brain. As I said this I could hardly get the words from my mouth and he was so amazed with how I spoke. In fact, every person I met that day was amazed I did this rehabilitation mostly on my own without assistance of medications. And that brought so much joy to my heart, and pride!

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I learned so much on this word pride standing in that room. Standing in front of Senators, doctors, professors and many many other people. I took so much pride in myself. I could honestly feel this light beaming from my head I was so bright! It was an honor for me to say, yes, I am Stephanie M. Freeman the founder of The Brain Trauma Organization, Share Your Strong and I am a 22 year brain injury survivor who lived 2 months in a coma on life support. And I am ALSO a marathon runner, a trainer, and a single mother! As I would say those words, I could look around this room and I knew automatically these people knew the storm I had walked through and it brought so much joy to my heart and soul. But I have to say, the most joy was hearing the applause I got for never giving up and remaining active…

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” ~Glinda the Good Witch

After the fair me and my director took an even longer walk on “The Hill”. We walked down to take our mission to our Georgia legislators. Most of them were not in that day but we were fortunate enough to get to introduce ourselves to the office and leave a card and of course get a picture with the staff. The only one I could actually sit down and meet and discuss anything with was Representative Sanford Bishop’s legislative director. Sanford Bishop is The Representative for Georgia’s 2nd congressional district. He is an Albany GA native and I was so happy to visit his office, even happier that his director agreed to sit down with me and chat. When he sat down I could feel his stress levels were so high. As I spoke to him and let him know what my mission was and I wasn’t asking anything of him I could feel the stress releasing, and it was amazing to see this… He was such an awesome guy. When I asked him to take a photo with me he was nice enough to even throw up his guns for the pic… I was so impressed with this office, but I was impressed with all of my Georgia legislators that day… And I am most happy that I made the effort to have my voice heard and my mission heard…

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“You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Believe in your courage. You are powerful.”

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The lesson on pride I learned most from meeting each of these legislators and their offices were that ultimately pride invokes courage, and that acting courageously invokes pride. I walked away from “The Hill” that day with a very satisfied and PROUD heart….

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To end my entry I want to say I am proud of every accomplishment I have ever made in my life. Whats more satisfying about these accomplishments have always been the fact that I am a brain injury survivor, and I can say I have used these dark moments of mine to help me achieve each accomplishment. But after this day I can say confidently that I am most proud of saying those words… I am Stephanie M. Freeman, the founder of The Brain Trauma Organization, Share Your Strong. Never Give Up, Never Give In, Never Stop Trying, Never EVER Give Up!!!

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