Survivor Story: Crawling out of the Dirt with Joe Borges, host of the NeuroNerds

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By Mariah Morgan & Eryn Martin, Mariah Morgan, and Eryn Martin. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

How can we say this without shocking anyone?? We are not the only podcast looking to connect survivors together!!! Today we talked with our friend, Joe Borges, host of the podcast NeuroNerds. He suffered a hemorrhagic stroke from high blood pressure in 2016. He was feeling lonely and like no one understood him post-injury. It wasn’t until he met his future co-host, Lauren, who also suffered a brain injury that he felt heard. The support they gave each other gave birth to putting out a NeuroNerds in an effort to connect others so no one feels alone. Join us in this episode for all the feels! We laugh, we cry, we turn into butterflies, and make plans to get tattoos!

Covered in this episode:

  • Joe Borges co-host of The NeuroNerds tells his story
  • He had a raging migraine, felt a pop in his head, and for a split second the most intense pain in his head disappeared but then another second later his body went to jelly. He felt like he was learning to walk again. The pop in his head was his right basal ganglia (blood vessel in the bleed) popping--a hemorrhagic stroke!
  • Stubbornly, he continued on with his night. He doesn’t remember hardly anything for the next 2 months.
  • He tried sleeping it off. He was waking up throughout the night puking blood but didn’t want to go to the hospital. He had some behavior changes and confusion. A family member convinced him to call 9-1-1
  • He had a stroke and was in the hospital for a 1.5 months
  • He woke up in a brand new body, 30 lbs lighter! He also woke up with a different brain--he couldn’t understand things and had left sided neglect. He needed full care and had to learn to walk again.
  • Leaving the hospital was the best day!! Seeing leaves blowing in the wind had new meaning
  • Post stroke realizations
  • “Your stroke was a blessing,” it took a few months for him to feel this but it ended up giving him more than it took. It gave perspective and he has lived more in the 5 years since his stroke than he did the 30 years prior.
  • Go to therapy! Process your feelings.
  • He found he had been existing and surviving in fight or flight since he was 7 years old. He wasn’t living before the stroke, only existing
  • He discovered boundaries and what life should be
  • His stroke saved his life!
  • The only reason you know what good feels like is because you have experienced bad.
  • When you can’t walk, toilet, or bathe yourself; it changes your perspective
  • Tremors in right hand, short term memory issues, and cognitive changes persist but what he has gained from the stroke far outweighs it
  • “Recovery is not easy. Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done. The world is not easy; it is very hard. Things are heavy and feel insane some days but I feel blessed that I am still here to experience these things.” (17:40)
  • Having the comparison of being stuck, dependent in a hospital shows how good life actually is
  • It’s ok to joke about your injury if you are ready. Some funny shit happened and it can be really helpful to laugh about it. We all process differently
  • Survivors are all in different places with this and it's ok if you can’t. People who haven’t experienced an injury may not get it or feel comfortable laughing at the funny parts with you
  • How the NeuroNerds came to be
  • Loneliness during recovery: people that haven’t been through it don’t get it
  • “Wow, now I have a new perspective but I’m lonely, no one gets it. This is a second life and now I have to exist alone”
  • He found someone at a party that had a car accident and bad concussion. They became friends and bonded over it.
  • And best thing, they are both nerds!
  • They started meeting weekly to support each other and talk about all things brain and nerd. Selfishly, they started a podcast to help themselves get through this.
  • He was super overwhelmed by doing the podcast and a blog and was ready to give up. Then there was a listener who reached out with a similar injury letting him know how much his story meant to her. It was giving her hope. He realized, they needed to keep this thing going!
  • From that moment on, he became an advocate! We have to talk and share our stories to help each other.
  • We are changing the world one survivor at a time!!
  • In general, we don’t share our vulnerabilities enough. It leaves those feeling vulnerable alone. People want to connect!
  • Understanding “normies”
  • Normies: People that haven’t had brain injuries
  • Sometimes they say stupid things because they are trying to connect with you.
  • Post-injury
  • Meditation: learning to be comfortable with yourself.
  • Therapy: helped him deal with dark, negative places thoughts can go
  • Set boundaries: they are amazing. if people are doing or saying things that pull you down and don’t respect you when you ask them to stop; you may need to set a boundary and let go of it
  • Brain injury survivors are evolved beings. We were caterpillars crawling in the dirt before our injuries--some people miss that caterpillar. Now we are beautiful butterflies soaring through the sky. Others can choose to evolve and join us soaring in the sky but we can’t go back to crawling in the dirt. They can join us when they decide they want to be out of the dirt (32:30)
  • Sometimes you need to cut people off. It is hard. What is more important, keeping other people happy or your own health? (33:40)
  • He chooses to surround himself with people who are in a healing place. Those cut out can rejoin when they’ve evolved.
  • Overcome guilt and poor coping mechanisms related to religion or parental restrictions. Joe is a “recovering Catholic.” Mariah feels some of this too.
  • The tattoo: Tattoos were never allowed for Mariah. Getting one represents overcoming fear of letting her family down or other people dictating what she will do. She’s gonna get one for her brain injury anniversary as a mark of being a butterfly, November 13, 2021!
  • Celebrate your brainiversary
  • For some it is a time of great joy and others feel it emotionally
  • It’s kind of a spiritual day and a mark of rebirth
  • Everyday after your injury you are choosing the way you want to live
  • Post injury scars
  • Working the physical scars into something you can control
  • It’s not the scar but the meaning behind it. Seeing them brings you back to times when you were at your worst. It reminds you of having everything taken from you.
  • Joe and Mariah are working them into tattoos to take the marks back as their own rather than allowing the injury to own them.
  • Some think of the brain injury as taking something away from you but it gives you an opportunity to do something new with your life.
  • Being a recovering Catholic, the glass was half empty and the other half was poison. Having a brain injury gives us freedom to enjoy life and live differently. We have a different lease on life since we understand how close we were to not being here.
  • The way that you measure yourself shouldn’t be based on your past self. That wasn’t the best you. We evolve and become better.
  • In the immediate period after injury, you don’t know what is coming. It is easy to get pulled into negativity. Sometimes it takes time to realize all that you have overcome, all that you have learned, and feel the gratitude.
  • Change the way you talk to yourself: it’s not a setback, it's a hiccup.
  • Do you get tired telling your story?
  • It is a nice reminder and it is helpful on the rough days. It helps to put it in perspective that even if today is rough; it wasn’t as bad as then
  • Sharing also helps others
  • It can help balance and motivate you to keep pushing through
  • Finding brain injured friends is life changing. It changes the trajectory of recovery. This is why these podcasts exist. We don’t want anyone to feel lonely or disconnected. We want everyone to feel connected. Reach out, we’re here for you <3

How to connect:

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43 episodes