You’ve Got Some Nerve
Lioncrest Publishing (2021)
Derryen Plante is a survivor who battled back from a traumatic brain injury and redefined herself in the wake of a horrific attack that altered the course of her life. She wrote this book to create a connection with others suffering with an invisible injury and offer them strength to build a new life post-injury. As part of her recovery, Derryen discovered a new career path. She rose through the ranks quickly and is now a Principal Revenue Agent for the State of Maine, which allows her to utilize the same skills she honed in preparation for becoming a special investigator. To further connect with Derryen, visit http://www.derryenplante.com.
Hi Derryen, thank you so much for joining us today at Reader Views! Tell us a bit about your book, You’ve Got Some Nerve.
You’ve Got Some Nerve is my real, raw, and honest account of how I redefined my life, navigated the challenges unique to brain injury recovery, and found support in unexpected place. I bring the reader through the traumatic event that changed my life and my journey through recovery. While recovering, I battled severe denial and had to overcome it before I was able to make progress in healing. My journey offers keen insight into how each of us can support those suffering with the long-term effects of an invisible injury. It’s a must-read if you have, or you love someone who has, experienced trauma, gone through feelings of helplessness and loss, or simply need a guiding light to find the way to a new normal.
You’ve had quite a journey. What actually inspired you to sit down and write a book about your experience?
Following my brain injury, I spent several years in denial about the issues I was dealing with; primarily, that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once I was finally able to accept and admit that I was facing PTSD, I was able to start dealing with the trauma surrounding the assault. Writing about my experience began as a way for me to process the trauma that had happened. As I was writing I also began being more open with those around me about what I had experienced and what I was currently dealing with. As I shared my story with close friends of mine, I found that many of them could relate to my story in one way or another, either personally or that it related to someone close to them. Because there are so many different dimensions to my story, I thought that by sharing my experience through writing this book would help others who found themselves in a similar situation to mine.
A 20-second attack changed your life forever – how did your brain injury impact your life?
My brain injury impacted my life dramatically. It presented with no significant red flags in the beginning, but as more and more time passed it became clear that there were underlying issues that were causing me to struggle. Initially my brain injury resulted in debilitating migraines, difficulty with speech, visual issues, and trouble with my memory. As time progressed, the brain injury had a devastating impact on my sense of self. It felt as though my brain injury robbed me of everything that I had, and everything that I was as a person.
How has your experience changed your perceptions about depression, PTSD, and other invisible illnesses?
Prior to my assault I was an individual who thought you could combat depression and PTSD with nothing more than will power. If you ate healthy, exercised, didn’t think about upsetting things, you could control these invisible illnesses on your own. Through my own experience I learned that even if you do all of the things you are “supposed” to do, you are not immune from experiencing mental illness. I could not control whether or not these mental illnesses were present, but I could choose how I was able to cope with them.
What can you tell us about the research you did in preparation of writing You’ve Got Some Nerve?
I did very little research prior to writing You’ve Got Some Nerve. It was important for me that this story be conveyed as though I was speaking it to each individual reader, and the information contained in the book was generated from my own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Following the completion of my book I have created a blog dedicated to brain injuries and invisible illness that comprises research on a variety of topics.
What did you learn that most surprised you?
Throughout my healing process I was truly surprised to learn what I was capable of. I had completely lost hope that my life or my pain would ever get better, and at the lowest point in my recovery, I didn’t even feel like a human being anymore. I had lost everything about me that made me unique and special, and truly didn’t know who I was after my brain injury. Although it was a long, hard road, I am surprised to be here today feeling as emotionally strong as I do. I never thought I would be able to build my self-worth back, or even be able to look at myself in mirror. I am truly surprised to know what is possible.
By far the thing that I learned that surprised me the most came from one of my blog posts. The post references a study that found that in cases of more than 700 diseases women are diagnosed on average four years later than men. I thought that my pain had persisted for so long because maybe our regional hospitals were not as well equipped as those in larger cities, so I was surprised to learn that my experience isn’t unique. That woman generally face significant difficulties in getting successful medical diagnoses and treatment.
Talk about recovery. What were your expectations? What was the reality?
I expected recovering from a brain injury to be like recovering from any other physical injury. I expected that after spending two weeks in a dark room with no electronics I would emerge fully healed. That was far from the case. It was foreign to me that you could be suffering from something where doctors had no treatment plan, and no prognosis for how long you might be suffering from various symptoms. I also expected recovery to be an upward climb, where each day I would become a little bit stronger than the day before. I never expected that recovery would deal with numerous downward spirals, and how that would affect my healing in other ways. If you would have told me right after my assault that I would still be recovering more than three years later, there is no way I would have believed you.
Have you had any type of closure with the person who assaulted you? How do you move past being afraid of assault, or do you?
Following my assault, the opportunity was presented for me to sit down with my assailant and have some closure. I was also given the opportunity to speak at his sentencing hearing, which I chose to do. At no point while I was working at the facility would I say that I was afraid of being assaulted, as it was something we faced pretty much on a daily basis in one form or another, but the fear has a greater impact on me now. I have found that I do get triggered when people around me start yelling at each other and appear to be ready to get physical, even if the situation doesn’t involve me. It never bothered me while I was working at the jail but since I left, I still struggle with the “fight or flight” response that comes with situations that are escalating. It has been difficult to move past the fear entirely, I am definitely more on edge now than I used to be.
What kind of reaction have you received from your book so far?
When I started writing this book, I had the intention of hoping to help one person who was struggling through some of the same things I had, and offer them hope and strength. To be honest I wasn’t sure if my story was one that was worth telling, or if it would be well received by individuals who wouldn’t be able to directly relate to my experiences. I have been absolutely elated by the feedback I have received so far. Many individuals have told me that they personally took something away from it, whether it changed their perspective or reminded them to be a little more compassionate.
What do you most hope readers take away from “You’ve Got Some Nerve”?
I hope that every reader is able to take something from You’ve Got Some Nerve that helps them grow in their own way. I hope that individuals who are suffering from invisible illnesses are encouraged to find a voice and advocate for themselves, and hold onto hope that things can get better. I hope that readers who know someone who is a first responder can become more aware of how their loved ones might be feeling even though they aren’t saying anything. I hope that every reader takes away the desire to be less judgmental to those with invisible injuries, and put more kindness and compassion into the world. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
What does your life look like now?
My life is finally starting to reach a point of stability. My doctor’s appointments are slowly becoming less frequent and my life is starting to appear more “normal”. I am the happiest I have been probably at any point in my life, and the most proud of who I have become as a person. I spend a lot of my time focusing on self-care and putting myself first, as well as prioritizing spending time with my family. It’s not perfect, there are still some lingering issues from the assault I continue to deal with, but I can honestly say my life is the best that it has ever been.
Have you been able to resume all of your pre-injury activities? What are some things you enjoy outside of writing and your work?
I haven’t been able to fully resume all of my pre-injury activities, but I have started making strides to get back into them. One activity that I have enjoyed for most of my life is dancing and it has played an integral part in my recovery. When I was struggling with balance, fatigue, and muscle weakness, I went back to dance class as a way to get myself moving again, and try to regain some of what I lost. As I have gotten better, I have continued to dance, and have transitioned to learning a new style which is probably the most challenging yet.
You’re very active in spreading the message about your experience in order to help others. What does that look like? What are some of the things you are doing to increase awareness to the various issues that stem from a brain injury?
In addition to this book, I have started a blog on my website that highlights education, advocacy, and support surrounding brain injuries and other types of invisible illnesses. I also intend to engage in various speaking opportunities to not only address the impacts of brain injuries and invisible illnesses, but also the stigmas that surround them. When people can’t physically see an injury, it is hard for them to understand what the pain is like, or how it can dramatically impact a person’s life. It is also difficult for individuals suffering from invisible illnesses to get validation for their pain, as they are often met with skepticism from friends, colleagues, and doctors alike.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If my brain injury has taught me anything, it is that I must take my life one day at a time. I hope that in five years I will have continued to recover even more. I hope that my brain injury isn’t dictating my daily life, but has moved to the background. I hope to see myself continuing to spread awareness on the impact of brain injuries and invisible illnesses.
Will you write another book?
Although I don’t have any immediate plans to do so, I never say never. I would write another book if I felt it could provide more help to others.
CONNECT WITH DERRYEN PLANTE!
I would love for readers to connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, my Facebook page, or my website even if it is just to share their stories. I want them to know I am here to listen!
Read our review of You’ve Got Some Nerve!