Imagine just turning 40 and having a ruptured brain aneurism. As you are recovering, COVID hits and you move back home with your parents. This was Andrew Davie’s life and his story of recovery, re-examining his life and starting a new chapter is one you don’t want to miss (it will warm your heart during this holiday season!).
Before the aneurysm, Andrew was focused on teaching and writing. However, with the brain trauma and later, COVID, he had time to reflect and discover what would motivate him. He wanted to change his goals to live a more fulfilling life. In 2022, he will go back to school for a clinical mental health counseling program. Through his unique perspective, Andrew is poised to help people who have suffered trauma in their lives.
What are the keys to managing through trauma? Resilience, being uncomfortable with uncertainty and taking risks. He is motivated to help others and knows even when he has a bad day, he will be helping others. He knows he is “playing with house money”.
Andrew has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has published short stories as well as crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect, Close to the Bone, Alien Buddha Press, and a memoir. He also co-hosts a music podcast/show called, "Happy Hour with Heather and Guest."
Connect with Andrew to learn more about him and his background:
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Keri [00:00:12] Welcome to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther. We are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives. Often they push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals, and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that change their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior, and in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories, and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it.
Kelly [00:01:18] Hi, everyone, it's Kelly. We're so honored to have Andrew Davie as our special guest. Andrew has worked in theater, finance and education. He's taught English in Macao on a Fulbright grant, and he's published short stories as well as crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect, Close to the Bone, Alien Buddha Press and a memoir. He's also a survivor of a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He co-hosts the music podcast as well, called Happy Hour with Heather and Guest. Andrew, it's such a pleasure to have you on our show today. We always like to start our podcast by asking what you want, what you like to do when you push yourself and expand your thinking.
Andrew [00:02:04] Well, first, thank you so much for having me on. What I like to do to push myself and expand my thinking. Well, I think within the last few years, especially with a lot of downtime during COVID, I would listen to a lot of podcasts that I thought were very inspirational. There's one in particular called the Secular Buddhism Podcast, which I felt was really helpful to sort of keep things in perspective. And there's another one called Philosophize This, which also sort of helped put things in perspective. But mostly reading or listening to podcasts, I think, would be what would help give me the motivation I needed, especially during times, times that are everyone is sort of trying to figure things out. I hope that answered the question, I'm sorry that was...I rambled a little bit.
Keri [00:03:05] Oh no, Andrew, absolutely no rambling. You didn't do that at all. Thank you so much. What about each of those podcasts provided inspiration like what's the inspiring part to you? What did what was the message that they gave you? Or that that hook that kept you coming back and listening to it?
Andrew [00:03:27] Well, I think what had been interesting is that I had gone from a very personal experience that was difficult to articulate to people having had a brain aneurysm. And then obviously when COVID hit and it became a universal thing, it was difficult at times to keep things in perspective, as I had said. But one of the things that was helpful was sort of learning about how much of what I was experiencing wasn't unique to me. You know that it's that everyone is sort of going through their own difficult times. And that's really what what helped at the end of the day, it wasn't necessarily ideals or a mantra or something. It was more along the lines of just, we're all sort of in this together. I think the biggest thing now that I said no mantras, one of the one of the mantras was, was we're all in different boats, but we're in the same storm. So I felt I felt like those were sorts of things that I could sort of hold on to as I was addressing overwhelming circumstances.
Keri [00:04:40] I love that you said there's no mantra, OK, wait, there's one mantra, and I really appreciate that one, because isn't that like one of the best learnings when you realize in a way I'm not that special, right? Like my journey. Like, it might be special to me, but everyone has their kind of journey. Like you said, we're all on these different boats, but it's the same storm. And when you realize that other people have gone through it, not only do you feel like, Oh, I can bond with others on this, but then also your story becomes helpful to other people. So like, what if he got through it? I can do it too. My situation might not be exactly like Andrew's, but I can learn from it and I can. I can survive it as well. That's why Kelly and I love to do this this podcast because of stories that people can share and learn from. And so it's so great to realize you're kind of not in a way, not that special, like everyone has issues that they go through.
Andrew [00:05:42] Definitely, I mean, I think that that was sort of when I was in graduate school, one of the authors I enjoyed reading a lot was this guy named David Foster Wallace, and he spoke about how good writing allows people to feel less alone. And I think I sort of have held that to be, you know, for everything. I think, you know, we all have difficulty. But but it gets worse a lot of the time when we feel like we're alone and going through it. So much of what I took from any of the things that I had read or listen to that were really helpful was just to sort of know that this is not like, you know, not unique to me. You know that we're all sort of in the same position. Even though it feels different a lot of the time.
Keri [00:06:33] Mm-Hmm. So I like that one as well with your powerful writing doesn't make you feel alone. And you're right, it gets worse because sometimes you get in a situation, you isolate yourself and then you feel more alone and more depressed or more like this. I can never get through this. And so reaching out and talking to other people is so important. So I appreciate just what wonderful ways that you've already helped us, and with the ways that you push your thinking and can help others. So you've kind of alluded to it earlier, and I have a feeling that could be the big thing that changed your life. But what is the decision or something that happened that changed the trajectory of your life? And then what are some of those charged qualities that you use to help you in this in this moment, in this decision, in what happened to you?
Andrew [00:07:27] Well, I would say to sort of give more framework before the aneurysm was sort of the big major change that wasn't really my I didn't really have much control over that.
Keri [00:07:42] No, you didn't decide to have it.
Andrew [00:07:43] And you know what, but it obviously ended up being the sort of the pivotal moment. But before that, I had been teaching high school at the same time that I was trying to establish a career as a writer. So I had thought I looked at myself, you know, most of my colleagues who were teachers, really, I felt a calling for the job, whereas for me, I looked at myself more as a mercenary. You know, the job was a way for me to pay the bills. I mean, I enjoyed it. I certainly connected with the students and there were a lot of moments that were really wonderful, but I was always sort of removed from from looking at it like a calling. And then when the aneurysm happened and I really I couldn't go back to teaching full time and thankfully I could still write, but it wasn't the same sort of goal that I'd had before. So the last few years really have it because I had the aneurysm in twenty eighteen. So. Really, the last I would say from twenty eighteen until about twenty twenty. A lot of what I was trying to do were sort of recommitting myself to the same goals that I'd had before the aneurysm. And then, you know, I couldn't go back to teaching full time. So I got a job as a tutor that was going to start in March of 2020. And then obviously COVID sort of changed the landscape of everything. But it wasn't until I would say this past year that I realized that I couldn't really just use the goals I had had previously to be motivations for me to want to live a fulfilling life, either because the priority that I had where they fell on that list had changed or they were just unattainable now. So I sort of realized that that was the silver lining of Kobe. I had time to sort of really continue to heal physically and emotionally, but also we evaluate what was going to be a motivating factor. So, so I decided to go back to school. So I'll be. I will be. Starting a clinical mental health counseling program in January, which has sort of become my new my new motivating goal to to become a mental health counselor, to try and help people who were struggling with, you know, with going through difficult moments, I sort of felt like I had unique insight that I could offer. But but going back to your question, what were the things I think in in the reCHARGE® acronym? Certainly the endurance quality. I know that's not the exact word, but. But it just sort of being able to be knocked down and getting back up again. I think that's just really important for everyone, whether or not you've had a traumatic brain injury or not. Just understand, you know, understanding that things will work out in some way. At times, we may we may label them as good or bad, but really, it's just a matter of perspective. Most of the time. So I think being comfortable with getting knocked down five times, but getting up six times and sort of being prepared to to keep going. That was probably the biggest, the thing that served me most.
Keri [00:11:49] How did Andrew? First, I'm so glad you're healthy and and you've moved past and and you're here with us, so yay on that. What what were when you talked about the goals changing and your the resilience is key? Like you said, what? How did it go kind of mentally when you were like, OK, all these goals have to change because I now have this, this brain aneurysm in my life is different. How easy or difficult and kind of that spectrum was it for you to let go of some of those past goals and create new ones? Sometimes people have a hard time letting go of certain things they thought they wanted when situation has given them a different outlook. So how have how was that for you changing your your goals?
Andrew [00:12:41] That is that was actually one of the more difficult things. You know, it was it was strange because. I really didn't know how my recovery was, I was going it was easy. It was sort of easy to chart my physical recovery. You know, in the beginning, I needed to walk with a cane and I had double vision, so I wore an iPad. And eventually, I didn't need the cane anymore, or my double vision pretty much went away. But I also didn't know that I was going to have to recover emotionally, that would be a completely separate phase. And the realization that my goals needed to change didn't happen until very late. I would say within. Probably in between year two and three. And that was a really difficult thing not to accept necessarily, but just to understand that that if I wanted to be fulfilled, perhaps some of the things that I had anticipated from 10 years ago being being the goals would would have to change. So it was difficult not necessarily to come to terms with it, but just to recognize that that was what needed to be the the difference. So, but also, I mean, thankfully, I had a very I had I had and have a very good group of people who are very much able to sort of understand the big picture and the little picture ideas as I go through them. And I have the. The tenacity to want to, you know, in the beginning, it was sort of what I had to sort of navigate through a lot of really difficult moments to arrive at something that's still uncertain. And that was sort of the biggest thing was being comfortable with uncertainty and taking taking a risk and saying, you know what, I had assumed my life would be a certain way or that certain goals would be my lifetime goals. And now I've realized that that's not necessarily the case. But it took a while to feel comfortable enough with that, that that it wasn't really overwhelming.
Keri [00:15:19] Mm-Hmm. Andrew, did you did you think before the the aneurysm, did you think, Hey, I'm a pretty resilient and flexible person? Or did you think this is my plan? I'm good in locked and loaded in this plan, like or did this kind of help you become more resilient or already build on your already kind of pretty flexible and resilient?
Andrew [00:15:43] I would say. That's a great question. I'd like to think of myself as being pretty flexible and resilient. Back then, I mean, I had. I had ended up in teaching sort of as a through a very circuitous way. I had never planned on being a teacher, so I was sort of open to. Two different opportunities as they presented themselves. I think I'm much more resilient now because I've I've faced much more difficult challenges. I would say that I was probably pretty locked and loaded with regard to wanting to be a writer. And that was kind of the driving force. Whereas now I've sort of accepted that it's not necessarily going, you know, I don't I can't imagine that at some point I will end up on the New York Times bestseller list. I mean, while it's still nice to fantasize about that, I don't really see it as something that could happen. Whereas I think maybe 15 years ago, I didn't really think about it as something that could happen, but that it might happen and that it was a possibility. And that was sort of. An abstract idea that I think I think before the aneurysm, many of my goals were abstract ideas that I didn't really think about how it would work, but they served as sort of a beacon that I could move toward and then subsequently after the end. Plus, you know, I'm as I'm. So I had I had just turned 40 when I had my aneurysm, so so my forties have been a pretty turbulent time. But I think within the last couple of years, I certainly have had a much better perspective with how I just held the trajectory that life usually takes as I approach middle age. You know, and just as life has gone, I mean, I don't again, I don't think you necessarily need to have a brain injury to reconcile that, that certain things in life may not play out the way you had anticipated.
Keri [00:18:12] Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. Andrew, what? Because yeah, we said, you obviously didn't choose to have an aneurysm, but you're choosing now to say, I'm going to study clinical mental health. I'm going to help others. I'm going to counsel others. So tell us about when that idea came into your purview because it doesn't sound like you. You know you were focused on writing and teaching. And so teaching still a helping profession. But how did you get into this mental health counseling had? What was that decision like?
Andrew [00:18:46] Well, I I so the last year I moved back home with my parents. Because it would just be easier with with COVID happening. I was guaranteed human interaction every day as opposed to if I was just in my apartment by myself and I have a very good relationship with my parents. That was a very it was an enjoyable time. I never I never would have imagined, you know, at the age of 43, living with my folks again would have been fun. Yeah, but what ended up happening is I was looking at teaching positions as I had felt, even though I'd had the tutoring job lined up, which didn't happen. I sort of kept thinking, Well, that's where I've been the most comfortable, so I should probably go back to that profession. And I had begun to feel much more capable of looking at full time teaching again. So what I realized was that while there were aspects of teaching that I would always enjoy. I don't think it would have been something that would have motivated me every single day to want to, you know, if I was having a bad day or, you know, would this be the thing that motivated me to get out of bed and grab the bull by the horns? And I tried to think, OK, well, if teaching is not going to do that, what would? And I had just remembered certain moments when I was recovering from the aneurysm. What helped me the most was, again, those moments that I'd had where I spoke to another patient or a health care professional who had who had reassured me that what I was experiencing wasn't unique to me and that just just feeling because unfortunately, there are, you know, there's not there haven't been that many case studies for people who've experienced what I've experienced and come out through sort of on the other side. I think most, most people who have had ruptured brain aneurysm sadly don't make it or they have some sort of permanent disability. So I thought, OK, that's something that will motivate me every day, wanting to provide guidance for people and also thinking I'm probably one of the few people who've recovered from this enough to be able to provide help or support from that perspective. So that became something where I realized, OK, this is going to be fulfilling, even if it's a rough day. So that that realization was he was a huge kind of step in the right direction for me to feel OK. I may not go back to teaching, and while I can still write and I still get enjoyment out of writing, I don't think that's going to be the thing that does it. But what would be the thing? And then eventually I realized. Possibly counseling in some way. And then, I guess, began looking at programs and. But that was the motivating thing.
Keri [00:22:15] And I think it's so beautiful that you were open and kind enough to yourself to say it. I don't think this motivates me the right way anymore. Like you said, grab the bull by the horns. I want to get up and I want to say, Yeah, I want to do this. And even in when the job is tough, you're still going to be fulfilled and asking yourself that question. Lots of people don't ask themselves that question. And they keep kind of going and then maybe have a realization much later in life of going, Oh, I didn't like this. So I just really appreciate that you asked yourself that question and did something about it. And I do love that you're living with your parents and having a good time. Love that intro.
Andrew [00:22:59] So well, you know, there have been moments, I, you know, I think. I remember one of the first jobs I'd had after I graduated from college, I worked in a for a theater department in New York City. And I remember being out to dinner with. Some friends of mine, we were all in our early 20s and they both worked in finance and I remember we all paid for the check and we were going to split it and my two friends paid with what looked like platinum business cards and credit cards, and I took out to wadded up five dollar bill. And I remember thinking, OK, this is a little disconcerting because we're all the same age and yet look at the the discrepancy between how we're paying. It wasn't until much later that I realized, Well, I'm also trying to be a writer going and working in the arts. So I think my ability to sort of now at this point in my life say, You know what, let's let's make sure that we're really doing what we want to be doing for the right reasons. It was because I had sort of faith that a couple of times before. And now having been through it a few times and sort of realizing, OK, this is a little bit closer to what's going to give me what I'm looking for. It was only by, you know, having to face that a few times that I felt comfortable to finally be able to to speak truthful about everything, you know. And the other thing is like I. I so, so often I think we measure ourselves against society's expectations that. You know, I at this point, I don't have a family of my own, I don't have a spouse or children, so many of the decisions that I can make are made solely for me rather than to have to think about other obligations I might have. So, so a lot of this is all framed within the luxury I have of just thinking about myself. You know, I think there are a lot of other people out there probably that don't have the luxury of being able to completely reinvent themselves because they do have other obligations they need to take into consideration. So. But not to get ahead of myself that that was sort of being able to make that decision is a factor of a lot of things that I had had going for me that I think I was able to recognize better after the aneurysm. Having dealt with with difficulty and having to endure things and sort of recognizing, OK, you're you're given a clean slate, what do you want to do with that? And it took a while to really feel comfortable to say like, OK, I think I know now how I'm going to reconstruct my life. And. And not really worry so much.
Keri [00:26:21] What a powerful message that you just said. Now I have a clean slate. And what a different way you could have looked at it. You could have said, Why did this happen to me? I can't believe this, and I have to mourn everything that I did. I'm not going to do. Instead, you looked at it. I have a clean slate. Now I can. How can I help people? And so speaking of helping people, what is some of your actions or top advice that you have for people going through this experience? What would you what would you say that people should think about?
Andrew [00:26:57] Well, I think, you know, I think a lot of people get caught up in thinking, what's what is going to make me happy, which a lot of it's, you know, unfortunate emotions are fleeting most of the time. So one day something is going to make you happy the next day, it's not. So I would say, really try to look at what's going to make you feel fulfilled and try to, you know, sometimes that takes a really long time to figure out. But. But I mean, that's really what you should be focusing on is just what is going to bring you fulfillment. You know, again, what one of the. These days, I try and try to look for silver linings with everything. And one of the silver linings of the last year was sort of being able to completely decompress about everything and being able to think, OK, what is going to allow me to be fulfilled every day or what do I expect will allow me to be fulfilled every day? And and that was really that that was really a focal point. You know, there's always there are always going to be days where I know that I'm going to feel overwhelmed or where things aren't going to be going as well. The other the other thing I've also realized, though, with regard to the clean slate, is that I feel like at this point now I am. I'm playing with house money. That's that's another mantra I thought of. I mean, I. Just to give you a few details, I was about to board a plane when I had my aneurysm and I collapsed on the jetway, so had I boarded the plane, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. And that that was a very, you know, I sort of allowed myself a little bit of time to contemplate the various aspects of that, that things happen to break in just the right way that I wouldn't let myself fully go down the rabbit hole of contemplating all of that. But it also helps later to be like, Well, you're here and they're going to be days where it's really easy, where decisions you don't have to make any decisions. You can just sort of toast and they're going to be days that are really overwhelming. But you're here. And since you're here, why not make the most of the situation, really, if if you didn't have to, if you weren't thinking about how to please other people or about what expectations for someone of your background or your age or things like that, measuring yourself against what what you know, what society or culture thinks. At the end of the day, if you had to make a decision, what would you want to do? And really just being able to sort of guide people who were struggling? I know how much of that meant to me when, when you know, and it could have been a very simple thing, even just somebody telling me, Oh yeah, I've had that happen to me before, you know, just this sort of affirmation that that you're you're doing just fine with what you're doing. So that was really the it was a combination of a lot of those things. And I don't I think I probably wouldn't have been able to have an appreciation for making that decision if I had thought about it a few years ago. I think it really unfortunately took a long time and a lot of things sort of happening that we're both in and out of my control.
Keri [00:31:03] Well, I think what you said every time you said something like, oh, I love that more the not the happy part, the fulfilled. So don't worry about being happy, be fulfilled. What's going to make you fulfilled? And I think that's such a powerful. I think that's so powerful. But then you said playing with house money, Andrew and I thought, in a way, aren't we all playing with house money, right? We all just, you know, it's just timing. And we're all kind of on here for a certain amount of time. I just we just don't know how much time we have. And so why don't you make the most of it and be the most fulfilled that you can be while you're doing it? And so what an interesting perspective to say we're all playing with house money. It's not just you that was three minutes away from crossing into the plane and a very different outcome. But I want to ask you, Kelly, such a powerful story, and Andrew speaks so beautifully about it. And what are some of your thoughts on what Andrew has shared with us?
Keri [00:32:05] Well, first of all, Andrew, thank you for for being vulnerable and for sharing what I imagine has had to have been just an incredibly scary situation that you lived through and you survived and to be in a position to where you want to pay it forward and help other people survive whatever it is that they're going through in life. Just a what a gift that you're giving to people. So thank you for that. I wonder, did you did you yourself engage in talking with someone, know working with a mental health counselor or therapist? Just be curious to know if that was something that that you participated in on your journey to recovery.
Andrew [00:32:51] Yes, I have spoken to a few different therapists within the last couple of years. It's. I had gone to one who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder because I felt like there were days where I was really having difficulty. One of the unfortunate side effects that I've had over the last few years is it's difficult to make emotional connections with certain things. So I've been working with someone who is what's known as a Somatic Experience Therapist to sort of help me get get back in touch with some of the more fleeting emotions these days. But but yeah, I've I've definitely gone to some people seen counseling. There was a great support group I'm part of called Brain Injury Services. So that's been I had a case manager there for a while, so I felt I found a bunch of different either either health care professionals or support groups that have been really helpful in in in providing the support along the way.
Kelly [00:34:10] Thank you. And I love that you've taken that experience and and looked for ways in which you can offer your insights and in a thoughtful way, in a meaningful way to help change someone else's perspective on what they're going through. You mentioned also having a really powerful support network of people around you. What were some of the things that they did that helped you? Just work through whatever it it what it was that you were working through, whether it was the physical healing, emotional healing, continual healing, what was it specifically that that network offered to you? Because I think there's a lot of people who are looking to help others who might be in situations where they're struggling. Maybe it's with a health issue, maybe it's financial, maybe it's they're going through something personally in life. And I often wonder, what can I do to help this person? What? What was it for you that that that those individuals made the difference?
Andrew [00:35:14] Well, I think. You know, a lot a lot of times I think people will assume that what you're discussing is a problem that needs to be solved, so they'll try to think of answers. What was really helpful for me is just people who would listen. And I would sort of dictate what I needed if I needed anything. A lot of times, you know, I just needed somebody to hear what I was saying. So I think if you can be there for people as just a good listener, a lot of the time people tend to not necessarily figure out their problems on their own, but just being able to sort of articulate what's bothering them. It is really helpful. So, I mean, it was certainly helpful for me so that I would say that's probably. Just knowing that I could count on somebody to be there, I think was really helpful. So just letting somebody know that you're there for them, whatever they need and then just be being supportive however the person needs it, rather than trying to think of ways to solve their problems, just sort of give them the shoulder to cry on.
Kelly [00:36:38] Thank you. Such a powerful reinforcement of of just being just another human being kind, being sincere and meeting that person where they're at. To your point, it's not a problem. It has to be solved. You're working through those things. It's it's being an advocate by just simply listening. Who would have thought, right? Just an amazing, simple thing to do. And yet sometimes it can be very, very difficult or doesn't always come as naturally as we think we have to do something larger or more grandiose. And really, some days it's just listen, just listen to me. So I again, I just my continued best wishes for you and your your continued recovery and obviously much luck to you in in school. Looking forward to hearing and following your journey and again, the idea of taking the experience that you have that you have overcome, that you've lived through as you've survived, you've told us here today and that you're providing others with the time and the space to themselves be validated to share their fears, but also hear how they can work to overcome those things and find what truly fulfills them. This has been such an incredibly powerful and poignant podcast for me to listen to. And so I look forward to to to everyone hearing your story because it's just it. It really is all about not taking life for granted and not taking the situations that even mundane ones for granted.
Andrew [00:38:11] Thank you. Yes, I truly appreciate you giving me the chance to speak with you and I appreciate the conversation we've had.
Kelly [00:38:21] We look forward to following you, Andrew, and your continued success. We encourage all of our listeners to connect with Andrew Davey for to hear a powerful, more powerful, inspirational thoughts from him. And again, we will include all of the information the podcast references. I will include the Brain Injury Services group that you mentioned as well for anyone who's just looking for additional support or more information. So again, thank you so much, Andrew, for sharing your story with us and we look forward to following you in the future.
Andrew [00:38:55] Great. Thank you so much for having me.
Kelly [00:38:57] Thank you.
Kelly [00:39:01] Thank you for listening to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast. Please sign up for our newsletter at abbraccigroup.com. And follow us on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn at Abbracci Group. Instagram at WarriorsofHR and Twitter at Warriors_HR. Remember to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review and please tell a friend and be sure to drop us a note on how you are recharging your life. We can't wait to hear from you.