How Self-Advocacy Helped One Veteran Overcome TBI Obstacles

“Ask for what you think you need.”

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Amanda Burrill, a former Navy lieutenant, suffered two traumatic brain injuries (TBI) during her eight years of service. Because of the TBIs, she went from being one of the most athletic people to living with a disability. This challenged Burrill’s beliefs about strength and independence to the core.

Before her TBI, Burrill believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness. As the TBI symptoms continued to affect her, that opinion quickly changed. Now, Amanda is an outspoken advocate for herself and for others.

Learning to Move Again

Burrill didn’t receive an accurate diagnosis for her TBIs until twelve years after her first injury. An avid runner and triathlon competitor, Amanda had to slow down after her incidents. Certain muscles in her body couldn’t function properly. What once came as natural to her as breathing became a struggle. Reduced balance, muscle weakness, and motor skill impairments are all common symptoms of TBIs.

Once Burrill was able to find her voice, things started to change. It started with a simple goal of hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. Soon, it turned into a challenge to see if she could climb four of the world’s seven summits in less than three years.

“My little triumph of going for this big hike in Africa turned into probably one of the most inspiring set of things [as far as I’m concerned] that I’ve ever done for me,” says Burrill.

A New Start

Currently, Amanda works as a lifestyle journalist, specializing in adventure travel. It is something she never could have done if she hadn’t decided to ask for the help she needed. “I’ve seen it all, as a reward for putting myself out there,” says Burrill.

It wasn’t always easy for Amanda. “I hit a lot of roadblocks and then I shut up for a while,” she says. Eventually, Burrill learned that consistency is key. “You have to be assertive and be okay with that. By speaking out, you will eventually find someone who is going to help.”

“It doesn’t have to take over a decade to figure your situation out. It is your right. Everyone has the right to health and to be informed. Self-advocacy all the way.”

Learn more about TBIs and how to identify the signs here.