Our lives are ruled by an unseen presence that dictates what we can and can’t do, what’s safe and what isn’t. The things a brain injury takes from us leaves gaps – not just in functions: cognitive, mental, physical et al – but gaps that come naturally to any human when they have new restrictions forced upon them, and it can often feel as though these gaps can never be filled. The truth is that we have to be willing to search ourselves and examine those things we can’t do anymore and find exactly what it is that we miss so much about the things that left the gaps. When we understand these things we can start to look at other ways to fill them. It is those gaps that leave us with that feeling of dissatisfaction, that make us feel like an outsider and feel so unfulfilled.
So here is an analysis of myself and the areas of my life where their presence is significant by their absence and areas that to ensure I progressed, I have had to find new ways of approaching them, forced to think more outside the box.
Sport & Fitness – I had always been a pretty sporty and active person up until my brain injury. I had played and really enjoyed playing rugby and football at various stages of my youth, turning more towards football as I went into adolescence. These were the ways that I kept fit and healthy. Now though, it is obviously inadvisable to play contact sports (ones with high likelihood of an impact to the head anyway). So how do I, or have I, filled the gaps that playing these sports left? Or, just as importantly, exactly what was it that these sports provided that I miss now? To tell you the truth, it was a good way to unleash aggression. I loved to “stick the boot in”, to have a good 50/50 situation where it was all about physicality and strength as well as skill. I miss the adrenaline rush that provided. I miss the feeling of satisfaction you get when you do something particularly well. Finally, I also miss the binary concept of winning and losing. To me, it all has to be about winning, about beating someone or something. Finding a sport that provides all of these things when you have so many health issues to consider is difficult and takes a lot of thinking outside of the box, quite often a change in mindset and in the way you think.
Work – People often complain about their jobs, I used to do it before my injury. I worked as a waiter, a barman, a labourer, and in a factory before my injury. Truth be told, I didn’t hate any of them (except the factory job) but I still found things to complain about. Now I look back on those times I think, “what were you complaining about?” Now that I can’t find work due to job shortages and also because of the subconscious discrimination that comes with having a brain injury and epilepsy, I would give my left arm to have a chance to be back in the workplace. Having a job gives you a sense of purpose, it gives you money in your pocket, and it gets you meeting people. Instead, because of my injury, I am always thinking about ways to try and guarantee a future for myself, and worrying where the next pound is going to come from. Again I have had to think outside the box to really find what is possible and realistic for me, my knowledge, my skills while bearing mind my injury manifestations and how to what extent these manifestations limit me in what I am doing or what I want I want to do.
Domestic Abilities & Responsibilities – There is something to be said in taking pride in your home. We can all be untidy sometimes and there are very often days where we can’t really be bothered to do something we know should really be done today (like doing the washing up or putting the washing machine on), that goes without saying for anybody, brain injury or no.The issue that can often arise, especially when you live with carers is that you can come to rely on them dealing with domestic chores and responsibilities. Not only is this unfair on them but it also hinders our recovery. The same is true if we do not live with carers but choose not to take on such responsibilities. The result is that we can end up living in squalor, and in an unhealthy, unclean environment. The responsibility, in the end, lies with is. The more responsibility we take on, the more we challenge ourselves (especially with the things we’re not all that enthusiastic about) and become used to doing the things in life that we don’t like doing but need to be done, the closer we come to full recovery. Unfortunately in life, much of the things we have to do each day are things we don’t necessarily like. I hope I can show you different ways to make these responsibilities easier to manage, more rewarding and perhaps, even fun.
Leisure Time & Fun – There were a number of things that I thought I wouldn’t be allowed to do or wouldn’t be able to do after my ABI. However, I was very surprised when I learnt that not much of my leisure activities would be affected at all. In fact, there are some things that I enjoyed that I assumed would be off limits but when I actually asked the appropriate specialists, some of these activities were actually encouraged. Most of the activities that I couldn’t do anymore were because of the effect my injury had on my cognitive and physical functions. I did have issues that I have since overcome. I hope to be able to give you some advice on how to perhaps overcome some of the issues you have, to find a new passion and the main aim, to help you move closer to independent living post-brain injury.
So I hope you will join me as I recount my experiences of overcoming certain difficulties, thinking outside the box and finding fulfilment over the next four weeks. Hope to see you here next week for sport and leisure.
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