My name is Tom; I am 26 years old and the survivor of an acquired brain injury. Many of the last few updates I have posted recently have been following something of a theme. The theme I have been trying to follow and the message I have tried to impart has been about the importance of adapting to change; the change of outlook that inevitably comes with a traumatic, life-threatening injury. There is a change in your abilities and a change in lifestyle that comes with coming to terms with these changes without allowing them to dictate every aspect of your life. Both of them are an extremely hard process to go through. I have also tried to stress the importance of self-reliance and self-belief during said process and my belief that it is something of a necessity. I am of the opinion that a certain degree of the recovery we make and the process of moving forward, towards a target, is something you can achieve yourself; that YOU CAN create a fulfilling and enjoyable life after an acquired brain injury.
Contributors To Stress
The difficulty with living an independent life, maybe working or volunteering, getting back into education, some people may even be living independently, the difficulty is that they are undoubtedly stressful in and of themselves. When you combine them with the difficulty of living with a head injury; the after-effects both emotional and physical as well as difficulties with both cognitive and thought processes, combined with the every day demand of motivating ourselves, of getting up and trying to achieve our ambitions means that it can be very difficult to keep it together on an emotional level. The fact of the matter is, the general stresses of life can be difficult for people to handle, head injury or no head injury. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, over emotional, depressed or stressed out, know that you are not alone.
Mental Health, Emotions & Feelings
It shocked me to learn that’s around one in four people each year will suffer from some kind of mental health problem (predominantly stress and anxiety). That’s just when we consider the ordinary everyday population without any extenuating circumstances, for example life changing injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or some kind of childhood trauma in their lives. The stresses that being an independent, self-reliant adult, who also happens to have suffered from a brain injury, are huge, we all know that. So we, perhaps more than most people, have both a right and a necessity to get those feelings off our chests.
Need To Talk?
While in past posts I have acknowledged the need for a loving and trustworthy group of friends and family in whom you can trust and confide in. However it also has to be emphasized that there are certain things that you absolutely do not want to share with those close friends and family. From personal experience, I know that this is not because of a lack of trust, more because you do not feel comfortable sharing certain pieces of personal information with those closer to you. Whether that is because you believe your concerns or confessions may change their opinion of you, whether you are embarrassed or ashamed of said confession or simply you would rather have those people did not know this particular piece of information. Whatever the reason, sharing intimate things with people who know you intimately is a very difficult thing to do.
I think that when we want to talk about our problems, our secrets and information of a personal nature, what we really want is somebody to just sit there and listen. This desire to disclose information can often be misinterpreted by those closest to us. Don’t get me wrong, the manner in which they misunderstand comes from the best possible place. I believe that when we share our problems with friends and family, it is natural for them to want to solve the problem for us or to help solve the problem ourselves, when that is not necessarily what we want. All we want is to be able to vent and have somebody listen. Quite often, from my experience, the person you have shared with will then want to really get into the subject in depth, which can cause us to get frustrated, leading to tension within the relationship. Considering the circumstances, that is the last thing that we need.
So, what is the alternative? Where do we go to talk to people? From my experience, talking to somebody impartial, who only has my best interests at heart and is there just to listen to me, has been hugely beneficial.
Services Available and Where To Find Them
NB: At the end of this blog post, there will be a list of links to the services I have mentioned below. I hope they will be of some use to you.
This type of psychological treatment and talking therapy can come from many different places in a variety of forms. I would advise searching all of the available providers to find the service that will benefit you the most, such as the many dedicated organisations and charities as well as private professionals. There is also the option ask for a referral to the Neuropsychological/Counselling services through the NHS facilities in your area. People reading this may see that final option as something of a road to nowhere due to the current circumstances and financial cuts to the mental health profession, meaning the services are perhaps not what they once were (which may be true to some degree). However, if you do get a referral I would urge you to attend a few sessions. You will get the opportunity to discuss issues that are bothering you, whether they are frustrations regarding your injury, issues at home, work, school or problems with relationships, with a trained neuropsychologist. Most importantly, you will get to express how you truly feel about these problems in a safe environment.
Or if you perhaps wanted something slightly less formal but still specific to the field of brain injuries, a good place to start would be The United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF). This online forum provides a vast amount of information relating to contacts, services and resources in the field of brain injury recovery. If you click on the resources tab, follow the head and brain injury signpost link where you will find a list of services. When you click on a particular service (in this case, support groups and helplines) it will take you to a directory of contact information for brain injury charities and organisations that spread across the length and width of the UK.
If you want to start closer to home, you can’t really do much better than contacting your local Headway UK chapter who can provide information in abundance regarding potential services in your area.
There is also the option to obtain the help of private professionals if you are merely looking to share your problems regarding your experiences and the effects of head injuries on you or a loved one. A simple way to do this, to find the right professional where you live is to visit the UK Counselling Directory that can be found online. You type your postcode into the website’s search bar and the website will provide contact information for the many counsellers and psychotherapists in your surrounding area.
Staying On An Even Keel…
If there is one thing that I have learned over the last six years, it is that life will hand you nothing. If you want something you’re have to go out there and take it for yourself. While I am a big believer in self-discipline, self-reliance and self-belief, I am also a big believer in the saying “…a problem shared is a problem halved”. I do not want my beliefs, particularly where I say that it is better to rely on ones self than it is to rely on others, to be misinterpreted. When I say that, I am talking specifically about performing tasks and acting on opportunities. I AM NOT saying that looking for help when it is needed is a sign of weakness and that communicating with people and expressing your emotions is a bad idea. In fact I would say quite the opposite.
The fact of the matter is that the stresses of everyday life, our opinions, emotions and feelings can sometimes be too much to handle. In my opinion, the need to express ourselves in a safe environment without the fear of scorn, ridicule or judgement plays a vital part in contributing to staying balanced on an emotional level. So I urge you, if you’re struggling with issues that you want to express then give some of these services a go. Let it out!