By Cameron Hunt
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — No one gets up in the morning thinking they’re going to get into a car accident, but when it happens it can change your life, said Michelle Mras, a former Air Force spouse, inspirational speaker, personal success coach and author.
Mras is classified as a highly functional traumatic brain injury survivor.
In 2014, her car accident robbed her of speaking, memories of people, schooling, some short term memory and some cognitive functions. Basic functions like walking and talking became a struggle for Mras, and she had to relearn those skills over time. Four major areas in Mras’s brain had also shut off. To compensate for the deficiency, her brain had to work to rewire itself.
“There were times I couldn’t walk without assistance. Talking so others could understand me was frustrating. In my head I was speaking fine, but what often came out was incoherent,” said Mras. “Prior to the accident, I wanted to be in politics.
“I wanted to run for county commissioner and help people. The accident happened and I lost my ability to speak, write and remember anything related to public office. I took it as a sign that politics was not my path,” Mras said.
Mras prayed a lot throughout her recovery; God seemed to be the only one that could understand her during these challenging times, she said. Then she remembered her ninth grade math teacher, Mary Mras, who would later become her mother-in-law. It was Mary’s attitude on life, the way she lived, and how she died that inspired Mras to seek a way to get her brain functioning again.
In 2015, Mras’ physician told her that her memory loss would worsen and that her ability to speak may be affected. She decided that she had one last shot to tell her story her way, so she auditioned and was accepted as a speaker for the Colorado Springs TEDx, a nonprofit organization that promotes talks about science, business and global issues around the world.
At her TEDx talk, Mras shared three points to living an intentional life. First, have a plan and a purpose in life. If you don’t have a plan, you’re just wandering without direction, she says. Second, eat dessert first, meaning enjoying all the small things in life. Tomorrow is never promised. Third, avoid ruts. Ruts are where dreams go to die and complacency and depression thrives. When you find yourself in a rut, change it, Mras added.
“The difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions you build,” said Mras quoting her mother-in-law. “She was a smart lady, who was quite unique and made this purposeful, intentional living thing look easy.”
After the TEDx talk, Mras wrote a book inspired by her speech titled: “Eat, Drink and Be Mary: A Glimpse into a Life Well Lived.”
Two years after her accident, Mras was diagnosed with paget’s disease, an outward manifestation of breast cancer. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy in December 2016, and today Mras is thankful for surviving cancer and has recovered most of her cognitive functions, though she still has some memory loss.
“It’s hard to be fretful about the past when you have no idea of what was lost. I see my loss as a benefit,” said Mras. “Many people are held back from achieving their dreams by the memories of their past.”
Despite the cancer and brain injury, Mras released another book titled: “It’s Not Luck: Overcoming You.” Her second book was inspired by people telling her how lucky she was for all of her accomplishments. But her life was not the result of luck, so she wrote about her real story and how to overcome your inner-critic, said Mras.
“It’s definitely not luck, relearning how to form sentences again,” said Mras. “It was a lot of hard work, battling breast cancer, bouts of depression and the inability to function properly is a daily struggle. I believe we create our own inner-critics and opportunities for ourselves. It’s up to each of us to get out of our own way and move ahead. I’m a bit of a survivor that way.”
Since the release of her latest book, Mras received the John Maxwell Culture Award for demonstrating a positive attitude. She has since travelled to New Delhi, India, to receive an Exceptional Women of Excellence Award from the All Ladies League and Women’s Economic Forum.