Network of family support
"Something that I've noticed when working with other individuals who are recovering from brain injury is that those who have the best recovery are those who have the most family support," she said. "I've been very fortunate in that regard."
Through the Brain Injury Association, Rudnick has spent much time helping brain-injured and traumatized soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find the specialized treatment they need.
"I feel like I have a lot in common with returning soldiers," she said. "I also have post traumatic stress disorder, and I do identify with them."
Rudnick, who is already working on her second book, a "fictional memoir" called "Whispering in the Dark," said writing "The Glass Between Us" and pursuing a college degree in her 50s has been part of her healing process.
"It was certainly cathartic, just like professional counselling," she said of the writing process and the encouragement she got from her instructors at CCC.
"Writing this book allowed me to get all my thoughts and feelings out in an organized fashion, so even I can go back and read it and get something out of it. It was quite a relief to get it all out and on paper. It left me feeling fresh and new and ready to begin again."
She also wrote the book to offer guidance and support for others who have suffered similar injuries. Even so, she discusses issues — such as loss and recovery of self-identity, self-esteem and even sexual desire — with such clarity that most all readers are likely to find a bit of themselves in its pages.
"I mention the stages of grief at the beginning of my book," she said. "Unfortunately, some people seem to get stuck in one of the stages and can't seem to find their way out of it.
"With the people I work with, I see anger quite frequently, and certainly depression that seems to be revisited over and over again. And self-medication, with alcohol or drugs, is certainly an issue when you're trying to get your life back together, because there's a lot of pain involved when you're recovering from a brain injury.
"There's enough physical pain, but there's also psychological pain."
'I'm a people person now'
Rudnick recollects how, as part of the healing process, she relived in her mind the physical abuse she suffered as a young child at the hands of her father.
"I came from an abusive family, unfortunately," she said. "And after the accident, when I when I was in a child-like state while I was in a coma and when I was newly emerged, I revisited those childhood experiences, which, unfortunately, was not a good experience.
"But what helped me with this book, too, was that I was able to revisit that, go through it, put it behind me and go forward," she said. "It was cathartic in that way. I was able to leave all that baggage behind.
"I can say now, after 11 years, that the brain injury, the accident, is probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm convinced that I am an improved person," said Rudnick, who plans to continue as a volunteer for the Brain Injury Association of Maryland and an advocate for the brain-injured.
"I'm certainly happier post-injury than I was pre-injury," she said. "Part of that is because I am more spiritual, and that spirituality has brought me closer with people in general. I'm a people person now, and I wasn't before.
"I've also learned not to squander time, and I don't spend a lot of time looking into the future," she said softly, "because we never know if this is our last moment, our last day together.
"I just go with the big picture, which is, I feel good, I'm enjoying this moment and I'm going to make the most of it."