How to Start over Following a Brain Injury

Five Parts:Focusing on SurvivingReaching Out for HelpEstablishing a Daily RoutineHandling Practical MattersGetting to Know the New You

A brain injury is one of the most devastating events that a person can suffer. It can completely turn a survivors world upside down. Starting over is hard, but not impossible. Here is a little advice, from one survivor to another.

Part 1
Focusing on Surviving

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    Focus on being alive. An injury to the brain can render a person feeling lost and hopeless. Depression and despair are common co-morbid symptoms accompanying brain injury survivors. Remember that being a survivor means being alive, and while there is life, there is hope.
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    Be gentle with yourself. Healing can be a long journey, and it takes time. It's not measured in days, or weeks, or months. It is a journey measured in milestones. It is not uncommon for brain injury survivors to take years, or even spend the rest of their lives healing. Having unrealistic expectations may lead to feeling one's progress is too slow or hopeless. It's not a sprint, it's an endurance race.
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    Get to know yourself and what works for you. Maintaining a positive mental attitude is far more difficult than it sounds. While the internet has all sorts of lists with things to try, they can seem vague or too broad and general. Lists are easier said than done. Find what works for you. Something still makes you laugh, or smile. Find it!
    • The only real control we have is control over ourselves. If you find yourself being argumentative or angry, it's okay. Just take a moment to stop and breathe. Let it out, and refocus yourself on adopting a better attitude. Resentment isn't a path to happiness...for you, or anyone around you.

Part 2
Reaching Out for Help

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    Seek out those people that can be a support network. They include friends, family or therapists. Isolation will only hinder rebuilding a life. Starting over is an enormous task, don't insist on trying it alone. It's your road to recovery, how you choose to travel is up to you.
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    Accept help when it is offered. It can be difficult to accept that life has changed. Clinging to elements of the past may only impede discovering a path forward. Don't allow pride to be a difficult obstacle all it's own.
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    Look for more resources. There is a wealth of resources for brain injury survivors waiting to be discovered, not just the internet. Look in your local area for support groups, therapists, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. There are doctors that specialize in cognitive therapy which may help address specific symptoms and difficulties. There are experts that can help you, but you need to find them. If you need help reaching out to them, ask a trusted friend, family member, social worker or medical professional. The Society for Cognitive Rehabilitation website has a large list with links to resources, including some available internationally. Here is a brief list of possible resources to start you off.
    • Social Security
    • Disability Benefits
    • Workman's Compensation
    • Veteran's Benefits
    • Insurance Companies

Part 3
Establishing a Daily Routine

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    Create a new routine. A daily routine may include performing self care tasks, participating in therapy, visiting with friends or family, etc. Not only will this help accomplish necessary goals, it induces feelings of being productive.
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    Have something to look forward to each day. Every daily routine should include activities that will elevate one's mood and are worth looking forward to. Life can still be fun!
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    There are many possible options for a routine. Here is a short list to get you started. Consistency is important. Stick faithfully to your routine, but don't be afraid to modify it to changing circumstances. Think of a day's routine as a brick, and each brick is a building block in a new life.
    • Preparing meals, can be very rewarding. If you're having trouble with this consider making it a group activity with some help.
    • Meditation can be very relaxing, but it takes practice.
    • Write a journal. This will help you recall a day's activities. Record your thoughts, and feelings and even what you ate that day if you want.
    • Socialize. Talk to someone, text, use the phone, whatever it takes. Isolation feeds depression.
    • Read a book, do a puzzle, sudoku, crosswords, anything to engage your mind. It won't expand itself if you don't make the effort to stretch it.
    • Watch a movie, TV or take a nap. It's okay to indulge a bit in moderation.

Part 4
Handling Practical Matters

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    Find medical care. Quality medical care may be a relevant concern. Depending upon one's nationality, the cause of the injury, employment status or socioeconomic group available medical care may not be adequate. Solutions are rarely easy, and circumstances may be tremendously frustrating. It is most important to not give up. Asking someone trusted for help, and being patient may be crucial to obtaining quality health care.
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    Coping with financial changes. Financial circumstances are likely to change. Maybe employment in a previous career is no longer possible. Maybe a set of job skills no longer operate as they did before. Maybe bank statements appear indecipherable and confusing now. There is no simple answer to this.
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    Cope with possible loss of independence. Losing one's independence can seem crippling. Maybe it's very difficult to take care of yourself now, and someone has to assist. Maybe you cannot operate an automobile or spend time with your children like before. Again, there are no easy solutions. Making the most with what you can manage is the key. The silver lining is in every cloud, sometimes it's better hidden than others. Sometimes it's just the little things.

Part 5
Getting to Know the New You

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    Understand that serious lasting effects may occur after a brain injury. The person staring back in the mirror might not recognize you. Friends and family might not understand why behaviors or personalities change. It can place a strain on everyone that is best managed with love and patience. Remember that the people in your life are trying to adjust, too.
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    Focus on reinventing the new you. A brain injury isn't like other injuries. It's not obvious to casual observers. Friends or family members might seem like strangers. Distant memories might simply not match with current circumstances. The past might feel foreign, or altogether alien. What still lies before you is what matters most. It's not about who you were anymore. It's all about who you are now.
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    Understand that emotional stability can be a serious challenge. It can be very hard to endure the profound changes thrust upon a brain injury survivor. Find those things that make you smile. Take all the time necessary to discover the new life before you.

Article Info

Categories: Injury and Accidents