My Ideal Gift!
Around this time of year, people often ask me what my ideal gift would be that would help me in managing my ABI. Ideally I would like a Secretary/Personal Assistant (wouldn’t everyone?) to try and ensure that I remember everything that I’m supposed to do, to do the little things and to avoid that plummeting sensation in your stomach when you realise you’ve forgotten something big! As having my own set of staff is an unrealistic proposition (for now, we’ll see what the future brings) I would say that an iPad would be a good choice. It would give me a portable organisation tool that is easily accessible and could be synchronised with all my other devices and their calendars. I would be totally organised (probably for the first time ever).
The Pressures of Christmas
While we are on the subject of organisation and making our lives easier, Christmas is one of those times when having a brain injury is an even bigger obstacle than it usually is. Issues such as fatigue, anxiety, and the pressure to socialise are emphasised during the holidays. Not to mention organising gifts, arranging finances, making food arrangements, transport and ensuring you can do all of these things without making any of the manifestations of our brain injuries worse or even dangerous and putting our health at risk. So here are a few tips that I have used the past few years that will hopefully help you to take the pressure off for Christmas and allow you to enjoy the day, the food and the company!
Ways To Avoid Provoking Your Injury Manifestations
- Medication – In the madness that is the run up to Christmas we are so focused on the things we think are important (gifts, food, how tall the tree is etc.) that we often forget the things that are truly important such as medications. Ensuring we have enough medication available to us over the festive period is extremely important. Chemists and Pharmacies are not likely to be open between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and also on new Years Day and some may close for even longer periods. We currently have to sort out issues regarding my epilepsy medication, finding a pharmacy that will dispense the 1000 mg tablets of Kepra I need to control my seizures and ensuring I stay healthy over Christmas. Things like this can be so often overlooked but please, remember how important your health is.
- Listen To Your Body & Your Brain – I know that it is difficult to live with effects of a brain injury. I know that feeling of guilt (?) or as if you’re disappointing or offending people by leaving a social situation because you can’t manage the noise and the speed of conversation, that you’re exhausted and overwhelmed; these feelings can be made worse if you are surrounded by family and friends (the people you least want to offend and disappoint). However for us with a brain injury, listening to what our body and brain are telling is fundamental. If you need to excuse yourself to have half an hour in a quiet room alone, do it. If you want some quiet and a cup of tea, do it. If you feel that you want to go somewhere and have a nap for an hour, do it! Those people you are with on Christmas Day, they will understand the necessity of managing your injury and trust me when I say, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
- Lay Off The Booze – This probably goes without saying for us but why not try to lay off the booze for the day. There is enough going on around you stimulating your brain and making you feel tired, emotional and overwhelmed. Alcohol is a depressant and is certainly not going to help you last the day. So why not try a dry Christmas? Trust me, you will feel sharper, have more energy and will be able to handle the stresses of the days easier without the presence of alcohol.
Gifts – Get Proactive
- Listing & Budgeting – The most important thing, first of all, is to know whom you are buying for. I have a fairly big family so I have to make sure I remember everyone and think about what they may want. Due to the size of my family, I also set an overall budget and do my best to stay within it. It is also worth noting down any idea that may come to mind as gift ideas for certain people (particularly those people who are notoriously hard to buy for).
- Hit The Sales (Early Shopping) – One of the emerging trends in the U.K at the moment is the promotion of the Black Friday Sales (a week of sales that takes place in the USA throughout the week that follows Thanksgiving that has somehow made it across to the U.K). These sales normally take place at the end of November in the final week. You can save huge amounts of money in theses sales as well as the sales that take place in the weeks of December but I like to get a head start to take the pressure off myself. These sales can also be tremendously helpful if you are living off of welfare, on a low income or a combination of the two.
- Shop Online – This year, by starting early and being proactive, I have done almost all of my shopping already by using online shopping sites. Not only does this mean that I am prepared and organised, but also it meant that I did not have to go through the hustle and bustle of the Christmas high street shopping madness (invasions of personal space and busy locations being a big trigger for fatigue, anxiety and irrational mood swings for me). So at the moment, I only need to buy three more gifts and I am done, all without the huge stresses that busy high street shopping brings.
For The Day
- Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help – The stresses of preparing for Christmas day are huge. Gifts, personal organisation, medical arrangements. All of these things put huge amounts of stress on people (even those without ABIs). The important thing is to remember that you can always ask for help. Go to a relative’s house on Christmas Day, get help from a friend or relative in planning for gifts for your loved ones. Try not to do it all yourself. When we try to do too much, say five things, we can succeed at four of them and fail one of them and because of the way brain injury makes us think (or at least makes me think) we focus on the failure and not on the other things we did right. Whatever successes you have, embrace them and whatever help you need and can get in making your life easier, ask for it and accept it.
Finally, try to enjoy the day. Enjoy the company, the food, the gifts and the atmosphere. Remember that you are with people you care about and who care about you, and you are there to share the day with them. So try and enjoy the festivities and have a merry Christmas!
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