Where Am I Now?

Hi folks! I am back again after a week or so off due to epilepsy related complications. It would appear that I am becoming resistant to my current medication (Epilim Chrono or Sodium Valproate). I actually had six seizures in the one night last week and would not come out of them so I spent a little time in hospital and have taken some time off as my body becomes accustomed to the new drugs I have been prescribed. So I can only apologise and hope you will understand my absence last week. But now, onwards with the blog and where I left you last we met.

As I mentioned in last weeks post, the process of assessing the self is a difficult one. I have decided to share with you the ways in which I have looked at myself since I took a break over the Christmas period and the conclusions I have come to. This should hopefully give you a better idea of the type of things we need to examine about ourselves when approaching recovery as well as establishing where is it we want to get to and what are the things that are holding us back. Now, as I start with the assessment process, I ask myself what is holding me back? Lets start with the obvious…

My Brain Injury

When I suffered my ABI in August of 2009 my parents were informed that it was very unlikely I would survive. I was admitted to Southampton Hospital with a GCS (Glasgow Coma Scale) of 3 (the worst you can be) after suffering a subdural haematoma, bilateral frontal contusions, and subarachnoid blood in the basal cisterns, a midline shift and multiple skull fractures.

I am extremely lucky to be alive let alone here typing away and talking to all of you fantastic readers. I made a fairly successful recovery and have been very fortunate in terms of the effects the injury has had on me permanently. Below I go into the consequences of my ABI that I am still living with today.

  1. Deafness & Tinnitus (a constant ringing) in my left ear.
  2. Loss of sense of taste & smell.
  3. Diplopia in my left eye (a state of constant double vision due to my eyes being knocked out of alignment, a surgical correction took place but I have been told this correction is only temporary).
  4. Loss of balance (I can’t stand on one leg).
  5. Short & long-term memory issues.
  6. Slower processing of information and responsiveness.
  7. Social conduct and propriety (in terms of not filtering what I say before it comes out of my mouth).
  8. Short temper.
  9. Issues regarding personal space and proximity to people.
  10. Mental health issues – now I am not sure whether this is down to the ABI entirely. However, I am placing it on this list, as it is definitely an issue that didn’t occur until after the injury happened. The problems I am having seem to be based (mostly) around issues in my life that have come up since the ABI or are directly related to the ABI.

These are just some of the issues I am dealing with in the here and now. Some of them are physical disabilities, others are issues regarding my cognitive abilities and some don’t fit into either category (see number eleven). I know that there are more issues that I have not mentioned; I just cannot remember them all (see number six).

When I look at the list I have made and I think about each disability alone, they do not seem to be that bad, especially when I look at them in a positive note by considering what could have been. There are plenty of people who have to live with far worse things than I do after a brain injury. However, I would also say that when you put all of these things, all these afflictions together, it makes for quite a difficult lot to manage day to day. I do believe though that very few of the disabilities listed above are things that cannot be compensated for, improved upon or worked around with the right attitude and work ethic.

Home Life

As a consequence of my brain injury I am currently living at home with my parents. Now, as a twenty-six year old man, this is not ideal. We only live in a small, rented house that is not really big enough for my parents and me. We’re currently living in a small village where there is little to do so my social life is non-existent and it becomes very difficult to meet people.

Having said all of this, I have to say that I will always be grateful to my parents for allowing me houseroom. After trying to live independently saw a rise in the number of epileptic seizures I was having, it was becoming clear that I needed support and that living alone was not a viable option for me at the present moment. To move back in with my parents was a difficult decision to make but I know it was the right one for me at the time. I now know that I have the support I need should a seizure occur but they are also kind enough to ensure that I have time to focus on my writing ambitions without dealing with all of the stresses, pressures and responsibilities of living independently.

Work Life

One downside though is that the epilepsy has continued since I moved in with my parents and has had a pretty big impact on lots of aspects of my life. One thing you should probably know is that I am currently unemployed. I suffered many seizures while working for one of my old employers. She was extremely understanding about the situation and was aware of what action to take should one take place. At my most recent job however, I was made redundant just two days after suffering a seizure at work (the first one that I had there incidentally). I couldn’t tell you whether that is coincidence or not but it seems pretty suspect to me.

Social Life

My social life is something that has suffered quite badly since I suffered my ABI. Prior to the injury I was somebody who enjoyed a good night out on the beer on Friday and Saturday night followed by a take-away, before arriving home late. This is certainly an aspect of my life that is no longer possible due to the affect alcohol has on the way and the speed my brain processes information the day after. The consumption of alcohol also makes it more likely for me to have a seizure during the following days.

I know this may sound strange (although perhaps to some people reading this it doesn’t because they know exactly where I am coming from) but I live in a town where there are very few opportunities, facilities and activities. This means that going to the pub in the evening is a big part of people’s social life. There is very little that can be done from a social perspective that does not revolve around pub life and the people in them. But what if this does not suit me? Or what if I do not want to do this or am unable to do this? What are my other choices? Go somewhere else, I suppose.

Saying that, I also happen to be a fair distance from any of the major cities, Bournemouth being the closest which is a thirty mile trip one way, so many of the social opportunities that I would like to get involved in, that suit my interests are not realistic for me to pursue or get involved in. I can not do them where I live now, I can not fund the travel to go to the venues where they take place and I am very much alone in terms of having people with similar interests.

Conclusion

The subjects I have covered this week are a basic breakdown of my current situation in practical terms: how my ABI affects me, how those effects make living an independent life almost impossible for me in conventional terms. Over the coming weeks I will be exploring where it is I want to be and, if I cannot get there by conventional means, what alternative routes are there available for me to take? Then I will be moving on to specific issues I have that can not necessarily be solved but be worked around and compensated for to give me, and hopefully you, a better chance at a successful recovery.

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A New Year – Self-Assessment

Well, as I said in my final Monday post, I would be hoping to make some changes to the writing style of the blog to make it more digestible for you, the readers. So here it is, me not trying to be academic, but simply speaking from the heart and also from the mind on my experiences of suffering from an Acquired Brain Injury and how that affects me as I try to pursue goals from the (seemingly) simplest (remembering chores), to the more difficult (finding and keeping long-term employment).

A Brief Introduction – An Optimistic Outlook On The New Year

I have entered 2016 in a very positive frame of mind. There are lots of things I am enjoying (the blog), lots of things I am looking forward to (the start of other writing projects that have been on the shelf for quite a while if I’m honest) and also the knowledge that I am moving forward in the ongoing process of recovery (something that is a never ending process, in my opinion). I have an idea of where these roads are going to take me, the problem with life, as a whole is that a lot of the time things happen, opportunities and chances come up when you least expect them.

The thing is though, that I am one of those people that need a plan. That is what gives me the motivation to carry on every day when, as a lot of you know, some days you really don’t want to. So I have a set of ideas and goals, basically a rough plan of what I want to achieve in the upcoming year. It is my intention to share with you exactly what it is I am doing to achieve those aims and the obstacles my brain injury throws at me as I go. I will also share with you the equally important issue of the different methods I am using to try and overcome the consequences of my ABI (I will be trying some different stuff so stay tuned because it could get interesting).

The Nature Of Self-Assessment

Analyzing ones self can be a difficult thing to do for anyone, regardless of whether you have had a brain injury or not. It requires total and sometimes brutal honesty as well as time, taking the time to ensure we really look at ourselves. When we engage with this process it can be extremely disconcerting. As I say that is not just for those of us with a brain injury that is for all of us.

Whoever we are, when we really take the time to look at ourselves, we will always find something that perhaps we must acknowledge about ourselves, something new we didn’t know before, something we don’t like and wish we could change. However, the type of self-assessment I want to discuss is the type where we can glean positive results. This is where I get more specific and focus on engaging with this process with a brain injury.

Assessing Yourself After A Brain Injury

Really looking at yourself and analyzing who you are post-ABI can be a really horrible experience. This process means truly seeing who you are now. It is about recognizing the losses you have suffered, the difficulties you have, the things you cannot do anymore and putting the emotional reactions that are triggered as a result to one side. Accepting your disability and its limitations is the key to moving forward.

That may seem like cheap words coming from the outside but it is true. In previous posts, particularly ones that I made last year, I tried to place an emphasis on the fact that life shouldn’t stop for us because we have suffered something as terrible as a brain injury. While this is absolutely true, it also must be stated that the world outside does not stop for us because we have suffered a brain injury.

Identifying Key Moments For What They Are

Don’t get me wrong, it took time for me to get to a stage where I was ready to really look at myself and accept the changes that I had undergone (around four and a half years to be exact). It is a process that does take time and a process that will be undertaken at the convenience and length of time the patient sees fit. It is a process that certainly should not be rushed. To be honest, it does not happen in a single moment of clarity (or at least it didn’t for me). After a certain amount of time I just get tired of fighting the same uphill battles that I had been fighting for so long that eventually, you just have to say “No. I am not going to put myself through this again.” And you don’t. It is strange but there are a series of moments that ultimately prove things that you have known about yourself (as an ABI patient) all along, you just weren’t willing to accept them. You were happy to keep swimming against the tide (that’s how it was for me anyway). The key is to recognize those moments for what they are: moments that will inform the way you live the rest of your life.

As A Result…

When these moments occur, when we accept these limitations we are then, believe it or not, in something of an advantageous position. We can then avoid spending our time banging our head against the wall working towards goals that are made difficult because of the consequences of the injury. Instead we can spend time working towards goals that use the strengths that remain within us post-ABI (and don’t say you don’t have any because you do) while devising strategies to compensate fro the weaknesses we have.

Sooner or later we will have to look at ourselves, assess where we are struggling, what the real consequences of the injury have been, finally and most importantly, how can we work to improve our situation, improve how our brain function and find ways to compensate for our deficiencies that work for us as individuals. The sooner we can identify and come to terms with our own issues, the sooner we can find ways to seek improvement and move toward the goal of long-term improvement.

 

Thanks for reading. I hope the changes I have made have been acceptable to you. Feel free to leave any feedback on the comments section or if you want to get in touch follow me on Twitter. I’m @ABIblogger or follow me here on WordPress. Thanks again!

New Years Reflection – Gratitude, Apologies & Change!

Gratitude

Hi everyone! A happy New Year to all of you! Today, I am going to be keeping this post brief, more as a quick update on what is happening at my end and what you can expect from the blog in the coming year. First though, I wanted to thank any of you who have been regularly reading this blog over the past four to five months. This is the first time I have kept a blog and it has certainly been an adventure for me. The amount of readers, the positive feedback I have received and the general success of the blog has been overwhelming, so thanks very much and I hope I can keep producing content that you will find engaging. I have also had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful and inspiring people through my blogging and online activity that has meant I have learnt a lot from others who have experienced similar things to me and made a few friends in the process.

Also, I would like to thank Julia at Headway Worcestershire  who has provided another blogging opportunity for me on their website. Over the last year her and the team have been extremely accommodating and made the process of working with them very easy so thanks to them for that.

As a final word, I would like to say thanks to my family who have helped to support my ambitions of becoming a writer, who have encouraged me with my blogging, congratulated me and celebrated with me on my successes, put up with me when I was being a pain and gave me a kick up the bum when I was being lazy. All of these things are a vital component to my writing process so thank you to them for that.

Apologies

However, as well as the gratitude I needed to send out to all of you who have helped to make 2015 a successful year, there is also a need to apologise or at least explain a few things. I feel that I may have inadvertently taken this blog in a direction I did not mean to. I realise, looking back on my posts from last year, that I had a tendency to spend most of my posts highlighting the problems of living with a brain injury. That is all well and good, to succeed in recovery people need to know what they will be up against. However, what I remembered (I blame the brain injury for making me forget) is that you already know the type of thing I am up against because you or a loved one is experiencing it to. While I still intend to highlight the struggles that I am living with and provide you with the benefit of my experience of living with a Traumatic Brain Injury, I will be doing my best to try and find ways, give suggestions or ideas that will help to resolve those problems or improve situations more than I have been doing. This is an area where I feel I have been letting you down somewhat so I will be doing my best to improve on that note.

Finally, I will also be trying to write the post in a less academic tone and be slightly more relaxed, more myself. My intention was to write the blog from my perspective and in my voice to make the daunting subject of brain injuries less daunting for people to approach. Again, I don’t believe I have been doing that so I will be doing my utmost to change it post haste.

Changes To The Current System

Finally, I also need to announce a few changes that will be happening with regards to the blog for the coming year. Having done the blog since the end of August, I have come to realise that it is a medium that can eat a lot of content. I also find myself struggling to keep up in terms of providing updates twice a week, simply due to the work involved combined with other commitments and projects I am working on. As a result I will be reducing the weekly updates to just once a week on a Thursday to ensure I continue to provide good content to you, the readers. This also allows me to branch out and spend time on other projects that have been on the shelf for a while without burning myself out.

In Conclusion…

So there we have it. That is going to be the new set up for the year. I hope that you can understand why I have chosen to make these changes. I do believe that they will be of benefit to you, the readers and also for myself. I also hope I will continue to have your support for 2016 in the same, magnificent way I had it for 2015 so we can make this year as successful as the last, for both you and me. Happy New Year and follow me on twitter @ABIblogger for reminders and updates on my blogging activities. Or better yet, follow me on WordPress!