My name is Tom; I am 26 years old and the survivor of an acquired brain injury. I have covered much of the initial issues that came up in the immediate aftermath of me suffering my injury. This post will be focusing on how a positive mindset can make all the difference to you as you move forward in your recovery.
I believe that the key is to assess where the limitations that have been placed on you make a difference and where they don’t. In my opinion, it is about allowing the situation to dictate certain elements of the way you live day to day because it has to. While at the same time, not allowing the injury to define who you are and what you can achieve in the grand scheme of things. Alright, so you may not be able to have a drink anymore, or play a certain sport that you enjoyed previously like rugby for instance, but going back to work? Going to university? Those are all achievable things, things that you can do with the right mindset.
ABI – The Inescapable Reality
We all know that as survivors of something like an ABI, we are affected everyday by the consequences of our injuries. Of course, we feel resentment and frustration towards something that is inescapable and that makes us feel marginalized when we look at those around us. There will be successes and failures on the road of recovery as there is for anyone but sometimes it can feel as though there is only failure. This post is to say to you that success, lasting success, can be achievable. A lot of successes depend very much on the way that you regard your injury when you approach potential opportunities and problems. Whether that is using your brain injury to get the things that you need, to channeling your frustration and anger into a constructive, or will you allow the injury to beat you? Will it go on to define who you are and what you are able to do for the rest of your life?
Accepting The Situation
It is only after many long stays at both ends of the spectrum between success and failure that the gains from the successes started to outweigh the losses of the failures. When I look back at my own experiences, it was out of a desire to live a life unaffected by brain injury that most of these failures seem to have stemmed from. Thinking I could do the same things as everyone else without any help, when the truth is I can’t. Or I can, but only with lots of help from loved ones and in a very well organised set of circumstances. Now I have finally decided to embrace my situation, not to hide from it or evade it, the successes are becoming more plentiful.
More recently, I have started to think in a more logical way regarding my ABI. As I have stated before, the after effects make us victims feel frustrated, angry and marginalized. We find ourselves asking “why me?” I have started to think though, that if the effects of the injury are here to stay, if the consequences of the ABI are going to be an ever present, shouldn’t we all try to find a way to turn these problems to our advantage?
What Do You Want!
I firmly believe that the majority of opportunities in life that are available for (for lack of a better word) “regular” people are accessible to people who have suffered from brain injuries. One thing that must be acknowledged is the amount of hard work that will go into accessing those openings. There is a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy to go through as well as the most problematic thing to overcome, difficult people in office jobs and positions of “power”. Seriously though, look at yourself, look at your situation and ask where do I want to be? What do I want to do? Do I want to go back to work, do I want get back into education, is there a particular job I want and so forth.
The key is, to set yourself a goal that you can work towards. Focusing your energy and applying yourself towards attaining that goal is not only a positive in terms of it helps to exercise your brain and improve its function (or it certainly did for me), but also it doesn’t allow you to fester on the things you have lost as you are focusing on something else. You have the knowledge that if you work for it you can achieve the same things as everyone else, which is a huge positive and helps drive you on.
Also, it is worth bearing in mind that while we currently live in a time where austerity is the word of the day, there is help out there. The important thing is to find resources who can offer help in guiding you toward the right kind of help that you may need. In the next couple of posts I will put up a few links that can help you get the right support to help you.
Pre-ABI I was weeks away from starting on my chosen university course. Something I had been looking forward to, as any nineteen year old does, with huge anticipation. To find post-ABI that I would have to wait at least another year before I could go was a real kick in the teeth. My neurologist told me that we would monitor my situation over the coming year and decide then, when it was easier to see what the long-term consequences of the injury would be. The thing was, while it was so frustrating knowing I would have to wait a full year before going to uni, the fact that I could still go motivated me more than anything else has ever done. I worked and worked, my father worked with the disabled students centre at my chosen university to ensure I would have all the support I needed. When the time came to be assessed again, my neurologist supported the idea of me going to uni as he believed it would benefit me in the long run (that is a very brief overview of the process of access to education, merely to talk about mindset, there will be more detailed information on this in the next post and over the coming weeks). I got to that point mostly from a determination not to allow my ABI to define who I was going to become. It shouldn’t define us! We can be what we want to be and achieve what we want to achieve, same as anyone else!
You Can Do It To!
I will say to you again that most of the things that people without head injuries do in life are accessible and achievable for ABI victims. The importance of a positive mindset cannot be underestimated, especially when combined with determination and a strong work ethic. Next week I will be sharing my experiences of accessing education and sharing some of the ways that helped me to become more independent. I will also share some of the servicesI had access to, without which, I probably wouldn’t have completed my degree.
Thanks again for those that have read today. As always, I am open to contact and constructive criticism if you want. I am available on Twitter @ABIblogger or you can follow and comment on here. Thanks again and be well!