Hi folks! I am back again after a week or so off due to epilepsy-related complications. It would appear that I am becoming resistant to my current medication. I actually had six seizures in the one night last week and would not come out of them so I spent a little time in hospital and have taken some time off as my body becomes accustomed to the new drugs I have been prescribed. So I can only apologise and hope you will understand my absence last week. But now, onwards with the blog and where I left you last we met.
Disappointed With Your Experiences? Don’t Let It Get You Down!
In the last post I spoke of my disillusionment with many of the services I encountered due to the tendency for a one size fits all approach to recovery. Very rarely are the personality, the interests, or severity of the injury treated on a patient-by-patient basis.
A key factor that must be taken into account when we consider the frontline services on offer in the medical and social service industry is the current political and economic climate. While it may make us angry, frustrated or even abandoned by the powers-that-be, it is unfortunately, a situation we must accept. It is something that I have learnt very recently that the help that I do require is going to be very unwillingly given at present; so what do we do? The answer is, we find the necessary information, the ways to find a catharsis and the ways to help ourselves, on our own if we have to.
Finding A Way To Express Yourself & A Form Of Escapism
One of the vital things that helped me, especially in the first year of the aftermath of my brain injury was to find an outlet for me to express myself. This outlet, for me, came in two forms: writing and watching and studying films.
Expressing Myself – Writing
Reading and writing have always been a passion of mine. This goes all the way back to childhood where my grandfather would read to me, we would make up stories together and, using our imaginations, play games based around the characters we had invented. This creative expression in the early part of my life was the beginning of my love and of my talent for writing; this talent and sense of creativity continued to blossom throughout adolescence and into academic achievement at school (My highest grade at A-level was a B achieved in English Language). Even after my ABI, the interest in creativity, in words and language was present. It was still something I wanted to pursue, despite my handicaps, and it was also something I still felt (with the right amount of work and commitment) capable of achieving.
This is where the relationship I mentioned in my last post, the one with my occupational therapist Anthea, was of massive benefit. She has been the one real exception to the consistently poor experiences I have had with services related to the rehabilitation process. She took an interest in me on a personal level: my strengths & weaknesses, my interests, my passions and most importantly my ambitions for my future. She came up with the idea of using writing as a cathartic process, to keep a journal of sorts, writing about when I had a particularly good or bad day and how that made me feel and so on.
As is this process of keeping a journal became more of a habit, I started to become more expressive in the way that I kept the journal; elaborating on the real life experiences I had on a particular day and creating characters based on real people. In the end it started to become almost a collection of expressions about myself that were kind of like short stories but all based in fact. I do believe that this process, one of using my mind constructively in a way that came naturally to me, did help to speed up the healing process my brain was undergoing at the time as well as being a wonderful outlet for me to express myself in a fun and creative way. The journal started to become something I could pour my emotions into, a big relief for my family who I think were at something of a loss as to what to suggest at the time as so what to suggest as an emotional catharsis; something not uncommon for many parents when a child has suffered an ABI of the severity that we have.
Escapism – Watching & Studying Films
The process of keeping that journal was intended purely as a way for me to express myself. Although, as I said earlier, I do believe that it had a positive effect on how well my brain was operating without me even knowing it. So there is certainly a difference between intention and effect.
In the first year where I was more or less housebound one of the things I needed to find for myself was a form of escapism. For the first three months I was not able to come downstairs unassisted due to the amount of weight and muscle mass I had lost during my stay in hospital, in my comatose state. So one of the things my parents made sure of, once it became clear that reading was going to be a severe problem for me, was that I had a DVD player and TV set up in my bedroom along with my DVD collection (which was considerably smaller than it is now at that time). Having the opportunity to watch my favorite films, attach myself to the characters and follow their journey gave me a form of escapism, to escape from the horrible reality I was facing at the time.
Films had always been a great form of escapism for me but also a great passion in terms of studying them. I had received a B at A-level just prior to my injury so I knew what I was looking for and recognized the signs of good filmmaking. It was a skill that persisted despite the injury; I found that I could still watch films in an analytical way and it was still something I enjoyed doing. I realised, much later on, that I had been carrying out this process without really realising it; once again, challenging and stimulating my mind without realizing.
What Did I Learn From The Things That I Did For Myself?
What I learnt from the tasks that I took on myself was that, while there are certain services that do not tailor themselves specifically to your personality and your interests, if you’re finding that to be the case then what is important is for you to take the initiative. Find ways that you can express yourself and forms of escapism that tailor themselves to your interests. Finally, when I look back with hindsight, quite often these forms of escapism and expression stimulate and challenge your brain in a positive manner. I believe that these two things specifically, helped my brain recover quicker than it would have done had I not established them as part of a regular routine.
Well folks, I hope that you have found this post interesting as well as useful. If you want to read more about my experiences, opinions and life generally, living with an ABI then follow my WordPress blog https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com and follow me on Twitter, my handle is @ABIblogger. Thanks very much and I hope you will look at more of my writing and find it interesting, useful and helpful.
About the author
My life was changed for ever on the 30th of August 2009 when an attack on a night out left me with sever brain injuries. I was left in an induced coma after suffering fractures to the skull, bleeds on the brain, as well as severe bruising to the frontal lobes. Since the injury I have found it hard to find and keep work, to maintain relationships, and generally stay positive. I have decided to share all of my journey with you, in the hope we can bring brain injury awareness to the level it should be at. Please, follow my own WordPress blog Life After Brain Injury to keep up to date with my brain injury journey! Follow me on Twitter: @ABIBlogger
Tom Massey, ABI Blogger