Brain injury, in all senses is an incredibly complex issue. There are numerous debates on different recovery methods; which works best? What’s the first step? What’s the best method of recovery? Finally, what I’m sure is the most common question, what is the cure? The truth is, as I and I’m sure you also have learned that there is no prescribed cure for ABI. In fact, I don’t think it can be cured; situations can improve but complete recovery? I’m very dubious. It is not the same as taking Ibuprofen to relieve a headache. The damage ABI does and the way it manifests itself can potentially affect everything from cognitive function to physical movement. Down the centre of my head is a huge scar that spirals round to the front of my right ear. And at the back of my head a large scar that slides down from just above the base of my skull to the upper parts of my neck; both visible mementos of my brush with death. The biggest scars, the ones that trouble me most today are the ones that can’t be seen.
Invisible Wounds & Injuries
I often feel that the things I am battling with most are issues such as anxiety, anger and depression, in essence factors connected to how I perceive myself and others perceive me. I will talk about the type of alternative choices and helpful lifestyle practices that can install a sense of calm and help achieve an inner-peace. These are methods of healing that are not just prescriptions to cure an ailment but to aid the healing of the whole, the mind, the body and the soul; in essence, holistic healing.
(Holistic – The belief that the parts of something are intimately connected and that you cannot separate one part without referring to the whole. For example when I was referring to a person’s health I used the term “mind, body and soul”, meaning that only when all are healthy and content at once can one be truly what you would call “healthy”.)
Some of the things I am going to suggest are things that one can obtain by walking into a shop and buying, or looking up the methods online but those parts are just a small part of the overall recipe. Much of what I am going to advise is definitely not easy. Most of these things involve a lot of discipline and awareness of both yourself and what’s happening around you. If we master these techniques though, believe me when I say this, we can learn to carry and manage the burden that is ABI and obtain a sense of peace, something I lacked for three to four years until I made the effort to learn, change my lifestyle and accept myself for who I am now.
What Is Peace? How Do We Get It?
The pursuit of peace, I believe stems from the every day stresses one endures: work, family life and commitments or, in our case, past traumas and the basic human need to escape from those stresses. I also believe that moments of peace where we are not in a state of constant mental conflict are essential for everyone’s day-to-day health. I am a great believer in holistic methods for creating periods of time where a person can be at peace and feel peaceful.
We all know that the ever-elusive pursuit of peace (a pursuit that on some level, all people whether they have suffered an ABI or not are on) revolves around our state of mind. It is a journey we try to go through each day so that we can arrive at a place, if only for half an hour each day, where we feel we have arrived at the desired destination; a place of comfort where none of the worries that we have been through during the hours before matter and they no longer concern us. What peace is depends purely on whom you are, the type of person you are, the intricacies and character traits that make you an individual. But I will explain to you what my place of peace is later on.
I also think that much of finding that feeling of peace within the self is being at peace with yourself and who you are. I think that accepting where your limitations are and finding alternative ways to overcome them or achieve the same end by a different means is how we can empower ourselves and feel that a brain injury does not rule our lives; that with hard work, the ability to accept certain defeats but not let them defeat you entirely and an open minded outlook and willingness to try new things we can be proud of who we are and be at peace with our injuries and the effects they have had on our lives. It’s a case of staring down the brain injury. The question is, who is going to blink first? I’ve found in the last seven years that I can stare for a long time.
My Place Of Peace
Near where I live (on the south coast) there are numerous cliff paths. I can walk up the cliff and onto a long coastal path. I have brought nothing with me except a bottle of water and my iPod. As I approach the uneven path up the steep cliff, I select my relaxation/mindfulness music album and press play.
As I set off I walk up the steepest part of the cliff walk up the steep green path until I come to a flat level where I can walk across the tops of the cliffs with ocean views as far out as you can see, I take that time to do some breathing exercises to get my already pumping blood full oxygenated. It is hear on these cliff tops that I can put aside the battles I have with myself in my own mind and stand and appreciate if only for half an hour, that there is so much beauty in the world. I can walk up and down that path for as long as possible. This is where I find my time of peace. A place where I can admire the beauty of the world, a world that seems much quieter, much more beautiful and relaxing that I enjoy far more than a world where I often see little to admire which only aggravates an internal struggle that I am battling with everyday.
There are many different ways to keep the body healthy and that can lead to a sense of happiness (a topic I covered in my previous post Exercise: Body vs. The Mind). Happiness is key to us finding a place of peace. Peace and relaxation is not what I would call happiness, more a sense of satisfaction or contentment. They are still though, in my opinion, branches of the same plant.
With regular aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming or walking comes with it the release of endorphins into the blood, endorphins – the healthy person natural drug of choice. I think this is why my feelings of peace often come after a period of exercise. The oxygenation of blood, achieved by rhythmic steady breathing during exercise is also important during periods of relaxation. When oxygen passes through cell walls and attaches itself to red blood cells the oxygen is transported to the parts of the body that are most fatigued and need it most. The brain needs a steady supply of oxygen to operate at its maximum capacity. In other words, for people like us with brain injuries, providing the body with a supply of well oxygenated blood will ensure that our brains operate at a higher capacity that if we don’t do exercise.
People say that dieting or eating healthily is a chore what they don’t know is that often the foods we eat can have a big impact on the way that we feel due to their content. Certain foods can help us cleanse and detox our body, even eliminating certain chemicals and molecules that can negatively affect our mood and yielding ones that produce a positive effect. I do not pretend to be in expert so I will link you to a couple of website that include far more information than I can give you. As I said, much of what disturbs my sense of peace is the ongoing battle in my mind and the effects that my emotions and mental health have. Changing ones diet can have a huge impact on the way that issues such as depression or anger can affect our day-to-day lives.
I should also add that it is not just the things we EAT that can produce these positive effects within the body, but also within the things we DRINK. So here is a link to my friend and blogging colleague Chelsea Webster’s blog Taste the Tea particularly her post on the positive effects different types of tea blends can have in helping to relax the mind and the positive effects of Tisanes. http://tastethetea.co.uk/2016/05/10/abi/ You can also find out more about her and the writing she does on Twitter @TastetheTeaBlog.
Fulfilling The Soul
One of the key parts to gaining peace within you is finding happiness and fulfillment in the things that you do. This is an extremely difficult thing to do after something like an ABI or TBI as it can seem that so much is against us. It can be difficult to find the right things for you personally due to the way your own individual injury has manifested itself and the things that you personally struggle with. These common feelings can often induce in us a certain fear, a fear of failure. Developing that kind of fear is the worst trap that we can set for ourselves. Instead, the approach that I take (and it’s not an easy mindset to get into) is that when we try new things, different things, there is always likely to be bumps in the road and difficulties the same as any other person. Those difficulties are emphasized by my injury and that is something that I cannot help. I hate and resent the idea that something that happened to me at the age of nineteen, seemingly at random, holds so much power over me but it does. That’s the way it is unfortunately and I can do nothing to change that.
What I can do however is use that as a motivation. Once we accept the fact that our injuries will affect certain aspects of performance, whether cognitive, physical or emotional and by proxy affect tour ability to do certain things I believe that we are in a much better position to try and do as many things as possible. When we do this, it is possible (and quite likely) you will find something that you do have a talent and passion for. I’m not saying we should try and do these things on a grand stage in front of a huge audience but why not try them on a small scale first. Why not (as I have mentioned it above in this post) try exercising and setting small goals to overcome, an example being losing a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. Or if you are struggling with issues such as depression then why not try experimenting with cooking recipes using the information I have provided with the links I have provided above to try and help improve your state of mind. Finally, an option that is my own preferred option that makes me happy; try expressing yourself in a creative way through writing (scripts, prose, poetry, songs). Why not try learning an instrument? Why not enroll in an arts class or maybe an amateur dramatics class? I am sure there will be plenty of information for local organisations online where these kinds of facilities will be available. If not then try speaking to specific charities and organizations’. Again I would suggest speaking to your local chapter of Headway UK who I am sure would be delighted to help you investigate where such local sports centre’s, organizations, clubs, societies and groups are and how to contact them to find out about different courses, lessons or meeting that take place.
The key thing is to find something that you can enjoy doing that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Find where your talents are, embrace them and use them. The feeling you get when you are doing something you enjoy and it is yielding a positive result is an incredible one.
Peace & Relaxation
Finally, I think that doing things that focus our minds, doing things that we enjoy and make us happy are a significant part of holistic healing. I believe that that lump in your throat and that feeling of heaviness in your heart that we feel so often after an ABI or TBI co-exist in the same part of you that explodes with happiness when England score a goal and the same part of you that brings a tear to your eye whenever you hear The Three Tenors –Turandot: Nessun dorma! They are just examples from my life, my point is that while there is sorrow that lives there, there is also passion, happiness and beauty in all of us. What we need to do is to find a constructive way to show our passion, our beauty and our happiness! When we can show that as well as absorb the beauty of the people and the world around us, while ignoring the slights of ignorant or unpleasant people and just continue living our life with good intentions and good morals and with gratitude. Then we shall be well on the way to being healed.I stress the importance of the wording, healed not recovered