Okay, You’re Alive! Now What?
Some of the hardest part of recovering after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is learning how to cope with how you have changed. Initially after my TBI, I remember that I could not stand the sight of myself. I turned away from every mirror I passed. What I saw prior to my TBI was a pretty good-looking, muscular, cocky teen who had the world by the tail, but in the weeks following, I saw just a shadow of what I had been. Wheelchair bound, unable to hold my head up, clenched left hand, broken front tooth. I didn’t want to admit what I had become.
Since I work in the same building with the Disability Coalition, I’m reminded every time I go to the restroom I see a reminder that just because I have a disability, I can still do many things in this world that others who have non-injured brains can do.
The text from the picture above says, “Believe. Achieve. In a world of disability, we find ability. We laugh, cry, live, die, work, play love and marry. We are neighbors, friends, parents, and citizens. We believe. We achieve.” Not to get all “Polly-Anna” on everyone here, it does me good to realize that although I may never be able to score in the 99th percentile on the SAT, I can schedule times to talk to schools or drivers’ education classes to keep some other 16 year-old kid from making the same mistake I did.
On one hand, you could simply let anger become your mantra, not allowing yourself to make new friends and taking your situation out on those around you. However, on the other hand, you need to acknowledge your sadness, but realize that you’re not the same person you used to be. Meet new people who understand more about some of your challenges, and you might even learn something from them.
I really don’t want to preach or get up on a soapbox, but the survivor needs to mourn the loss of your old self. After my TBI, I suddenly found myself unable to run with the same crowd I used to run with. For one thing, I required more sleep than ever. For another, I wasn’t in school—I was in rehab. Most importantly, I made many impulsive and inappropriate decisions and actions—I was a good kid, but I just didn’t know any better.
And for years, I lived in denial. I refused to admit that I was different from how I used to be. Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, I was faced with the reminder of my loss. Every day when I got up, I could see the scar on my forehead as a manifestation that I truly had been in a car wreck, and it hadn’t just been a horrible nightmare from which I could awake.
If you are interested in becoming involved with your local Brain Injury Association search for them online, or for more information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from brain injury, please visit www.BrainInjuryTN.org.