by Eric Jenican, Founder, Endorphin Warrior
No one wants to be “that person.” The person who is going through something so horrific, that no one else would want to be in their shoes. Last December, when I launched THE DAILY WARRIOR and shared about my adult daughter’s drug addiction, I felt I was that “parent” going through the nightmare that no parent would ever want to face. But I shared my story in hope that it could help and inspire someone else.
In 2012, when I read Endorphin Warrior customer Murray Dunlap’s email to us at customer service, my jaw dropped in amazement as his story of strength unfolded. In 2008, Murray was in a horrific car accident that nearly killed him. Three months in a coma, a terrible traumatic brain injury, six months in a wheel chair, having to re-learn how to walk, battling depression and suicidal thoughts, completely dependent on others, and fighting like hell to regain his life…the strength that Murray exhibited in his I’d-never-want-to-be-in-his-shoes life was inspiring to me beyond words. From this point on, when things got tough for me, I would think to myself, “If Murray can continue to endure and fight against what he is going through, than I certainly can face my particular challenge.”
Later in 2012, we featured Murray in an inspiring blog post. I’m revisiting Murray’s story again because he continues to inspire…and because I’m just so darn happy for him. Last month, Murray emailed us to say that his poem, “Defiance,” had been accepted for publishing by Cahaba River Literary Journal. He gave us permission to share it with you below:
In defiance of depression, I lift my chin, and I smile.
Our lives take unexpected turns, always.
Some sharper than others.
On a dime, my life turned inside out.
I was confused, angry, and thought of ending my life.
But, in defiance of depression, I have moved on to smile.
When I lift my chin to kiss my love, I am reminded: So very much to embrace.
And so many things to love. Life is good, after all. In spite of it all.
With the God-given grace to start over, I do just that.
The coma: I woke up.
The wheelchair: I stood up.
The book: I wrote.
With a fire in my belly, I turn to face the world.
I turn in defiance of depression, and I remember to smile.
Knowing Murray’s story and the beauty, wisdom and strength that this poem exudes…I am awestruck and so grateful to share it with our Endorphin Warrior community.
And there is more good news. Two weeks ago, Murray sent another email. This time to share that his second book, Fires, will be published by The Ardent Writer Press this year. Says Murray, “I am very, very proud of this one, having written roughly half since the accident – with a traumatic brain injury! I imagine the odds of a TBI survivor getting a book out are low, and I am proud to have beaten the odds. I am ecstatic to be writing, and frankly, amazed that I can. Publishing this book may well be the most difficult accomplishment of my life thus far, the pitfalls before getting it done were bottomless. But, as we all do, I have grit my teeth and pressed on.”
If you’d like to read more about Murray’s story and recovery, he sent us this brief essay titled: “From Pain and Suffering to Joy.” Enjoy it below…and if you’re inspired, please share your comments with our blog community. Warrior On!
From Pain and Suffering to Joy
By Murray Dunlap
To say I know pain and suffering might be an understatement. As many people know, I was in a car wreck that put me in a coma for 3 months. Then I lived out of a wheelchair for 6. Then I used a walker for about 6 more. My memory of this timeline and dates is sketchy at best. I have amnesia and a traumatic brain injury. Memory is no longer my strong-suit. As a full time writer, this disadvantage is maddening. But, I type on.
I had been given much, much physical therapy in order to walk again. I went to multiple therapists to improve my memory and pull myself out of depression. I have joined several gyms to lose the weight I gained in my wheelchair / walker days. Yes, fifty pounds. I published my first book, but having written it before the accident, I had trouble being proud. I did not remember writing it. The interviews and news felt false. I felt as if I was an imposter. The countless hours of therapy aside, my work had been anything but writing.
I had been married at the time of the wreck. A dear girl, she was overcome with the loss of her younger brother just 6 months before. And then her husband of 5 years underwent profound changes, and no longer resembled the man she had once loved. While I can understand now, at the time I was as confused as a human being can be. I suffered that trauma and loss. But, I brushed myself off and moved. I was introduced to on-line dating, and the horror that followed. I’ll spare you of that entire story and only say that I am here now and alive and am grateful to God that I am not penniless.
I was forced to relearn to walk, to drive, and to stop speaking with a slur and crooked eyebrows, and the worst thing (to me personally), a smile that drooped on one side of my mouth.
In the background of this mess, my sister-in-law had gone to Sawyerville Day Camp with Mary Balfour Van Zandt and told her my story of suffering. Mary Balfour had thought, he sounds interesting, but a married man. Then, in short order, I was not. And so began the phone calls and emails that led to plane flights and long car rides.
Through all of this, I have started writing again. First, short non-fiction about my recovery to later, back to my love, fiction. My progress was slow, but worthwhile. I have just heard back about my second book, Fires. It is a collection of short stories – fiction, with nonfiction about my recovery sprinkled in. It will be published by The Ardent Writer Press this year.
Kara Swanson says, “The curious thing about the auto accident that ended my life was that I lived through it.” I add – just like that, my original plan for life vanished. But, as one life ended for me, a better and more fulfilling life began. Thank you Ed. Ed is the man who ran a red light.
And as you might not know, I have become engaged to the beautiful Mary Balfour Van Zandt. From the very deepest, suicidal despair, to the glorious joy of true love, my life has started making sense again. I had lost track of God and resented my arduous journey, but I have learned that the wreck was not God’s plan, but my recovery and meeting the love of my life was.
So I live a profoundly blessed life. The journey from a fat, brain-injured fool in a wheelchair to a life as a published writer who has found love has been, at times, maddening, but the final result is beautiful. Please know that my life is far from perfect, but the pain and suffering brought me here, and gives me greater appreciation of the joy.
For more info about Murray’s books, visit: www.murraydunlap.com
1. This is Murray’s car, post accident
2. Murray today. No crooked smile!