There are the obvious steps from initial brain injury to when all the fanfare ends and everyone abandons you figuratively, that you soon discover yourself left to your own devices. This happened to me right after surgery when my Neurosurgeon signed off on the case and said have a nice life. That of course was in 1977-78.
I was told not to go to school for one year and take it easy and allow the brain to heal.
I was not referred to any other facility, nor were my parents educated on what to expect of their brain injured son.
To them, (my parents), I was cured. It was like I had a broken arm and in my case it was a broken brain that I had survived, I should be blessed and carry on with life like nothing had happened.
Was that ever a narrow minded view. Fortunately we have become more aware of the complexity of brain injury and have some techniques in place to assist those suffering from such a tragedy.
I wish to cover the latter scenario, of after you have discovered you have multiple injuries to your brain and what you personally can do or not do to enhance your situation.
I say multiple brain injuries like I am some kind of expert. Considering that my case is 34 years old and as I muddled through my life discovering several key injuries, I think I am qualified enough to share my findings with you. When I say multiple, I truly mean more than one and in fact I challenge anyone living with a brain injury to prove to me that they only have one such injury or disability.
The brain like a computer is complex. If you delete a little code from the hard drive chances are many programs will be affected. The same can be said with the brain. Alter speech and see if the the recall ability is not altered.
A brain injury is complex however the way we approach it can make a huge difference in how the disability affects our daily life.
I had the surgery. My speech was reduced to one syllable words. The speech came back quite quickly but my spelling took a lot longer. I also found it hard to keep up with a conversation because I would forget what I was about to say. My patience took a major blow. I became easily frustrated and would "lose it" and frighten people by my volatility.
Little did I know that this was directly to my short term memory deficit. When you are working on assembling a BBQ or installing a ceiling fan and as you fumble for the tool that you forgot where you put it, you start to get annoyed at yourself and then the colorful language appears. You may toss the tool, punch a wall or even worse take it out on your loved one.
This is why I am writing this installment.
Where does one begin? If you are brain injured, I highly recommend an anger management course. I have recommended this before but lets face it. Even if you do not have an anger management issue yet, you just might and even if you don't there is a greater issue that Anger Management courses will teach.
When you become brain injured, you are in another world. What once worked for you no longer holds water so to speak. You need to learn to analyze yourself when you act or react to a situation inappropriately and learn to find a better response when that same situation occurs again.
Believe me, it works miracles. You become calmer and better in control of the outcome.
The next tool is acceptance. Boy is this a hard one to overcome. I still catch myself getting frustrated at my "incompetence" for forgetting. I have to remind myself that I am not incompetent but rather I am and will be forgetful so get used to it.
I inform my co-workers of my memory and we get a good laugh at how short it is. So rather than getting down on yourself, the sooner you can accept your disability or should I say your limitations the sooner the world will accept you as you are and not what you ought to be.
Coping tools. This is an important one and can play on your ego especially if you are a male where you should be able to perform simple tasks such as installing a light fixture.
I tried this time and time again, whether a light, or assemble a bike or BBQ, I soon learned that the family would head for the hills because it was going to become a gong show.
What did I do.
I surrendered to my limitations and hired someone to do it for me. It was great! He could build the deck, he could install the dishwasher, he could install the light or paint the house and I had more time for myself and family.
Sure you can argue the cost but believe me it costs more to lose a family, it costs more to replace that light that you broke out of frustration then it does to have an expert come in and do it for you.
Try it some time you might just like it. Simply park your ego at the door, invite the repair man in and go outside in the back yard sit back have a beer and watch the grass grow. It is quite relaxing. Did I mention that it helps with your sex life too. Have you ever approached your wife after a day from hell and ask her for some nooky? It doesn't go far now does it? It might if your are calm and relaxed. She might just appreciate you a little more.
Look, the simple fact is, you are still you. If you have a cast on your foot, you are not going to play soccer anytime soon. You are not going to run a marathon. The same goes for your brain. You may never run the brain marathon like you did before the injury. If you can accept a cast on the foot and know that there are certain thing you can't do and will need help with, like cutting the lawn or cleaning out the gutters, then take that same approach to your brain injury. The only difference is that you may be wearing that cast on your brain forever and not just a few weeks.
It is amazing how helpful people are when they understand your limitations. My clients call me to remind me to key in an order for them.
I use my cell phone to key in appointments so that I can be reminded on the day of and it alerts me.
This is a good start. I will examine this and more in my next blog.