The past six months have been one huge learning experience for me. Navigating how to handle what normal 20 somethings would call the “real” world was a complete blow to my system.
I learned that it’s not okay to let someone verbally abuse you because of your brain injury. And i learned how to leave.
I learned that the people who know you inside and out, who accept you fully for who you are, will pick you up when you hit rock bottom.
I learned that these people will help drive you to succeed. And make you believe you can. These people, these friends, are the people i can never forget.
I learned that a brain injury causes a lot of problems when meeting new people, and that decision making issues were and are tested on a daily basis now.
I learned how overwhelming the real world was, and how hidden i kept myself in my bubble of education.
The real world is scary, overwhelming, and new. But alongside the fear comes a sense of adventure I thought I had lost. The ability to pick up and leave, to explore, to wonder; to imagine.
I traveled more this summer than i had since before my accident. Met more people than I have in that past four years in six short months.
I came to the realization that my brain injury does not give people the right to take advantage of me, and that although i may not be happy every day; I deserve happiness too.
But really, what is normal? It doesn’t matter where you go, normal is different for everyone and completely subjective.
What I have learned over the years of attempting to be normal is that, normal is boring. End of story. No one I know defines themselves as normal. And yet, with a brain injury, all we strive for is normalcy.
Why do we strive to be normal when the rest of the world wants to stand out? Maybe it’s because of all the comparisons to what normal should be on paper. Countless hours of rehabilitation to place us into the normal category of functioning. It’s so ingrained over the years of rehabilitation that normal is the goal, that I think we can lose sight of who we are.
We are people, and just like everyone else in this world; we are not normal. We all have quirks, things that piss ourselves and others off. We also have things about ourselves that we and others love. We are all multi dimensional, and striving to be at a “normal” functioning level is great, but trying to alter who you are to be “normal” seems to be a side effect of rehabilitation.
Be unique, love your flaws, learn to function at the highest level you can, but don’t lose who you are in all of it.
I know I’ve stated before that knowing your limits when you have a brain injury is important.
But at some point we always have to push them in order to progress. This doesn’t mean you need to thrust yourself into something completely overwhelming and find yourself unable to function, that will just cause heart ache and create a loss of motivation.
But baby steps. Take a small step out of your comfort zone. Get used to that baby step, then take another. They won’t all work out perfectly. You may feel awkward, anxious, sad or scared. But those feelings are normal. And stepping outside of your comfort zone even just a little bit, might make the situation eventually seem normal.
Always push your limits, but don’t over extend them. The point is to build motivation, not to shatter it. We all have our weak spots. We all have our feelings of being unable to do multiple things. But not everything we feel we can’t do is impossible.
Don’t let yourself hit a brick wall and confine yourself to the things you know how to do now. Push yourself. Take risks. They won’t all turn out perfect, but no ones life experiences are perfect. It might just show you that it is doable, and with practice and persistence; it might feel normal.
Never give up, you are always growing.
One of the most common questions I find I am asking myself lately is “who am I?”
I think that it is something that everyone at some point struggles with, and there is never some simple answer.
As I have grown up there have been no epiphanies to tell me what direction or where to go as the movies make it seem.
I think the reason it is such a hard question to answer is because humanity as a whole is always changing. Every experience changes is and molds us into who we are today. We are constantly growing entities. If you stay the same it means you haven’t learned anything, you haven’t left your comfort zone, you haven’t lived.
With a brain injury it is more difficult to navigate our life changes. We didn’t gradually become different, we were thrusted into difference and have to navigate how to handle it.
But it is pointless to wish you were the person you were 3 and 5 and 10 years ago. Because brain injury or not, you would not be that person today. And if you were, there would probably be a problem.
We all change, we all grow. If we didn’t, life would be boring. Stop trying to be who you were. Stop trying to find the answer of who you are. Because even if you find the answer, that answer will inevitably change.
Focus on now, be the best person you can be. This exact moment is where you need to be. So stop focusing on yesterday, and focus on today.
March is brain injury awareness month! To all my fellow sports enthusiasts, protect your heads and wear a helmet! Xo
The biggest tip I can give to anyone suffering from a brain injury is to take things one step at a time. Yes there is a bigger picture involved, for example plans with schooling like myself, but that doesn’t mean you need to plan and achieve everything all at once.
Look at the bigger picture and then break it down in to smaller steps. Things become far more manageable when you break them down. Achieve each one, one step at a time. Do not focus on everything at once.
Don’t over exert yourself to the point of mentally breaking down. You are doing yourself more harm than good. Do as much as you can at a level that keeps you at a functional level, it may take you more time to complete something. But you will have better results.
Listen to your doctors, but don’t take everything they say to heart. Remember, doctors see worst case scenarios every day and are there to warn you about the potential results of your injury. This does not mean that you are or will be that way in the future. Take some things with a grain of salt.
Surround yourself with people who support you. They may not always understand the difficulties that you face, and that’s okay. No one, not even doctors can truly understand what it feels like unless they have lived it. But end the friendships with people who disregard your problems as trivial, they will only bring you down.
More than anything, FORGIVE YOURSELF. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, because I know we all try to be. No one is perfect, everyone in this world has problems, they all learn different ways; they have just had their whole lives to adjust to it. We are all just learning how to handle our new ways of thinking. So learn to forgive yourself for taking longer than you’d like to, for forgetting something, for getting frustrated. Just forgive yourself.
No one is perfect, and we are all managing in the best way we know how to. Never forget how far you have come from day one. You are all amazing.
The perceptions that other people have of me at times is astonishing. Doctors say I am below average in cognitive functioning, yet are perplexed at how I achieve what I do.
On the other hand, some people’s perceptions of me are that I should have been fine the minute I walked out of that hospital. Life threatening injuries, brain injury, long term medical problems get me the perception that I should be normal because I can function in school.
Frankly, I can take the second perception from people who barely know me. Because realistically, if someone seems normal in the context you’re in (such as school for me) people will have the assumption nothing is wrong. That is fine to me.
What isn’t fine is the boyfriend who knew these would be issues in my life treating them as if they are imaginary. My problems are a “broken record”. I get that an injury of this magnitude would affect other people other than myself, but you are NOT by any means obligated to deal with it as I am, so if you are sick of dealing with it why are you even here?
People need to learn to realize what they can and can’t handle. To put up with something because you are optimistic after 3 years that it will get better is absurd. These issues will follow me on some level for the rest of my life. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to you.
You say I have changed? No shit. I almost died, and continue to suffer because of that on a daily basis.
I am not ready for what you want from me, this relationship isn’t all about me, BUT my recovery is the MOST important thing in my life right now. I want to be better, and if you can’t handle that then that’s not my problem anymore.
Who has the right to define the capability of a person? Who has the knowledge to predict the long term capability of a person? Frankly that answer seems to be no one.
Every day i read reports on myself, or speak to doctors, or rehabilitation professionals about my lack of capability to be able to achieve my goals. Realistically, it’s bullshit.
What do they have correct? My brain injury. It’s there, it causes problems, it makes life more difficult. And yet, no matter how much i succeed and prove people wrong, there is such a pervasive amount of pessimism that it is shocking.
I have done everything i was told I could not do. Here I am, succeeding, and there you all are, telling me that despite my shocking success; i will still fail.
People live by statistics, and live in a reality where nothing good can happen to you after a brain injury, or if something good does happen; its an anomaly that won’t continue.
I say, fuck the statistics. Fuck what every professional says. I am not a statistic, i refuse to be the person they claim I will become.