Today we’d like to introduce you to Clotele.
Hi Clotele, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Of course! Hey, I’m Clotele. I’ll try to keep my story brief, but it’s a journey! My life was interrupted by two car accidents in 2013. Both left me with a ton of injuries and medical issues. I had to drop out of acting/modeling and school. The injuries and medications masked what was truly going on as well, and it took me years of misdiagnosis to find the cause of my problems. I got diagnosed with depression, then anxiety, insomnia, bipolar, and many other things: none of which gave a good reason for my constant migraines, memory lapses, bad executive functioning, mood swings, nausea, balance/dizziness issues, and total personality changes- all of which were getting worse. After a veritable parade of medications that made my life a rollercoaster, I finally reached a doctor who knew the culprit of it all. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), from the accidents I had survived.
A common story with TBI patients is that they often go misdiagnosed for a long time, TBI’s are not well understood even in this day and age and are different for every different brain. I struggled until I found my diagnosis, and while it was a relief, it was also a new challenge- recovery, and acceptance. I wanted real healing, not prescription bandaids. I wasn’t gonna settle and stop trying. I decided on new mantras. There is healing in everything! It’s okay to rest! Healing isn’t linear! Old me is gone, new me is better! I improved my balance and strength by going on walks, balancing on curbs while I did, and lifting weights, even when it made me sick. I read, even though it was hard. I relearned. I use planners and write down everything. I got physical and mental therapy, I did yoga, I learned breathing techniques, and the most effective of them all: I found music again. I bought a small turquoise ukulele from Amazon, and the day it was delivered to my apartment, I knew I was in love.
The strumming helped my coordination. The chords helped my memory. When I sang and played, it helped me learn to multitask. Finding songs exercised my executive functioning and decision-making. But the best thing of all, when I played, I felt like myself again. It brought me happiness and helped me feel happy and purposeful again.
If you fast forward to now, I am still struggling with the same old same old: finding health care, all the same symptoms- it’s tiring, but they are more manageable. And now, I’m even singing. At first, I didn’t do it publicly- I couldn’t remember the lyrics or chords enough without a notebook, who wanted to watch that? While living some life and getting to know some people who were patient enough with my symptoms and need for constant rest. So here I am- much improved- still standing tall in the struggle of life- and I credit it all to mindset, good people, and music. There is therapy and healing in everything- with the right mindset and willingness. While I still have a lot to overcome, like everyone, I’m now able to do the things I love, and it means everything to me. My advice to anyone else struggling- find things you enjoy that help you, and never give up.
If you shift your mindset and want to learn, if you pick a direction and start walking, there is no way you won’t find yourself different or somewhere different. I share my story and such to help other people with TBI and chronic health issues know they aren’t alone and can find healing and move forward with life too.. I know I said I’d keep it brief but wow, even with that many words, it’s a crazy simplification of how my journey for wellness has gone. I feel like I still left a lot out! I’m grateful to be where I am. I’m a lot more stable these days.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I would not say it’s been a smooth road, but who has a completely smooth road? Besides the physical injuries, the mental ones, and relearning basic skills.. Trying to keep relationships healthy, still handling normal life problems and finding new ways to supplement my memory and health issues all at the same time is a challenge. I don’t have a good relationship with my family so I went through a lot alone. I’ve struggled to find good medical care and employment I could handle so I could eek by financially, it was rough. But, I finally reached a bit of stability with the help of a few select people and routines, found a therapist to help, and got some better medical care. Even back then I was surprised with the challenge of being told that there might be no more improvement to be had. But I knew better. For many of my physical injuries, I had been told to prepare for the worst with, and with routine, exercise, and diet increasing ever so lightly over the years, I had managed to improve there. I found an upsetting truth: doctors here in the U.S. were not there to make you better. They were only there to make sure you didn’t die, and they cost a lot. They weren’t interested in helping me improve significantly, they wanted to prescribe me and send me on my way. You always have to be your own advocate, find your own ways to heal!
Being a musician is especially challenging for me too. It’s hard to remember everything, but I love it so much I can’t stop. I get better at things everyday, it’s nice to work at something that is so fun for me. Finding a job that doesn’t make me sick has always been a challenge, but I found a job that I love this past year at Ellerbeck Bed and Breakfast. Having great and understanding bosses, and amazing coworkers.. It’s the life. I never thought I’d recover this much and be able to do so much again!
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m now a musician playing local concerts and making videos online. I’m unique because I have experienced so much and still keep going. Can’t stop, won’t stop! With a few local folks around me, I threw a benefit concert in March of this year for Ukraine called ‘Songs For Ukraine’ that was a big success. We raised $7,000 in aid for Ukraine. Since then I’ve been touring and writing music with musician Kid Brother (Chase Gillins) who is a fantastic human and has been such a huge good influence on me. I hope to continue my music journey, and continue to be a mental and physical health advocate and share helpful information for others with TBI’s or chronic health issues on my Instagram. I’ve been sharing my journey there for years and I am so grateful for those who have followed my journey. Thanks, Instagram family! Y’all know who you are. I’m so grateful for you guys.
I’m starting a folk duo with local legend Kid Brother (Chase Gillins) called Little Lonesome, recording an EP that will hopefully be out by the end of this year, and doing shows locally whenever possible. I also hope to get some of my own solo songs out! Chase and I will also be starting a show, recording dinners and music sessions with local artists of all kinds. It’s called The Carriage House Sessions, so look out for that! It’s taking place in the carriage house of that great job I mentioned: a historical Bed and Breakfast called Ellerbeck. It’s located in the Avenues of Salt Lake City. Give me a follow on Instagram if you are interested in following my journey, or are looking for musicians to book or shows to come to. Like David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I can promise it won’t be boring.”
Casey William Walker