Positive Thought Processes (Pt.1) – Self Affirmation

Positive Thought Processes (Pt.1) – Self Affirmation

Throughout this brief section I have been focusing on the idea of Holism or Holistic Health and Medicine as it is more commonly known – the treating of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease – in essence Brain Injury in the context of mind, body and soul. I have focused on body over the last few weeks (Holistic HealthDiet & Nutrition, Exercise: Body vs. The Mind) , taking a look at both exercise and diet and how these two important factors can have a very positive impact on our state of mind.

This week however I will be starting my focus on mental disciplines and thought process that can help us feel more positive in the way we think; basically moving from the healthy body to the healthy mind. I will show you ways we can find a more optimistic outlook and explore different positive thought processes that can really help ABI and TBI patients during their recovery. I’ve found that by disciplining my mind I have been able to look ahead and see the bigger picture while forgetting about the slights and little issues that I cannot control. This in turn means I can move on quickly from frustrations and the minor irritations that life so often presents. This week will be introducing the basic principles of Positive Affirmation.

What Is Positive Affirmation?

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In essence, Positive Affirmation is the ability to recognize and believe in the positive aspects of the self; the good within us, our abilities, our victories and attribute positivity and value to those things within our own minds. Much of this though process centers around the idea of control; more accurately what we can control and what we cannot. The basic principle of positive affirmation is accepting what we can’t control and focusing on the positive things we can accomplish and have accomplished ourselves, giving ourselves credit for the things we have achieved while ignoring the opinions, actions and words of others. The effect of this discipline is that it creates confidence in us while also making our skin a little bit thicker. I know from personal experience that negative things and words aimed at us in any environment can be hurtful, causing us to cast aspersions on our own abilities, our personality, our intelligence or even all of those things. However, if we master the discipline of positive affirmation it is possible to create a mindset where the opinions of other people about who you are, your abilities and what they think of you will matter very little. Now this sounds like a wonderful mindset to be in but where do we begin? How do we learn this mindset? Well, I believe there are two key aspects to learning this discipline as well as on important consideration/variable that must be understood.

Consider Society: Codes, Conventions & The Status Quo

Lets get this out of the way first, shall we? The variable is the unpredictable nature of people and society as a whole and has to be considered. This is an ever-changing thing, never predictable and never static. We do have societal rules that are present, some are written into law and some have been established over many thousands of years and still play a part in upholding modern methods of communication and interaction.

The rules of society along with the codes & conventions of social interaction presents itself as being based on the idea of freedom of speech and action based on an accepted moral compass that has been set by centuries of cock ups and mistakes, learning from them and adjusting our opinion on certain sets of behavior. In essence, People have a right to express themselves and their opinions in the public space without fear of punishment or retribution.

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This premise is basically true from the ground up in society. Each individual has his or her own set of moral, ethical and personal principles. At the low levels of general society, people can have a conversation in a pub and have a disagreement over race, religion or on something as mundane as the performance of the international football team. The people participating in a dialogue have a right to say whatever they want to say, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. If we look at the top levels of society, governments are based on the same concept; political parties represent a select proportion of the population and introduce or promote policies, which they believe represent the views, values and best interests of the vast majority of their supporters. They are putting the point of view of their party across.

The reason I make that point regarding hierarchies and structures is because we have to adhere to those structures to be able to integrate into society. To keep a job you have to follow the rules, if you want friends you have to engage with people in a friendly, polite and civil way as well as being sympathetic and empathetic, if you want to stay be free you have to follow the laws of our country and so forth. The point I am trying to make here is that we can only control our own actions and our own statements, there is very little else that we can control.

Aspect One – Know The Parameters of YOUR Control

I think it is also worth looking at the definition of that key word, control:

Control – the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Now if you will notice, the definition of “Control” refers only to tangible events; actions we see, hear, touch or feel. In social situations, control is generally not something most people can direct. The reason behind this is the fact that people can say and do what they like really. The decision is made in their brain and that cannot be controlled. We can try to control the consequences of an action once it has happened or the way a conversation is going once something has been said but we cannot control the decision making processes that implements the action. 

There are many common idioms in the English language. Common sayings that have almost become clichés but still hold true today and there are two that are particularly relevant.

‘Know your limits.’

‘You can only do so much.’

I however have decided to take these two idioms and by combining them, molding them and adding a few extra words, I have turned these two clichéd phrases into one super idiom, which accurately portrays the first step in learning positive affirmation, and it reads as follows:

Know the limits of what you can do.’

So we have established that everyone has the right to their own point of view and the right to express that point of view through actions and words. That being said, we in turn also have every right to disagree with or object to a statement, point of view or opinion. Now, here’s what causes the problem, as I see it, for ABI & TBI patients in current society. In places where we spend a lot of our time, there are generally structures and hierarchies. When at work we are normally subject to the orders of a superior, the rules they set as well as being subject to the demands of customers and co-workers and the rules of the system within which we work. If we are at home we are normally following the rules of the head of the household. 

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The problem as I see it is that, due to these codes and conventions, rules and hierarchies, it can give people and unprecedented amount of power in social situations (an example being that the customer is always right; a staff member cannot retort to a comment by a customer as they are the people who bring the money in and if you, as most people are, a subordinate at work any form of retaliatory response would be risking your job). So we cannot stop people from expressing their opinions. 90% (I’d take a rough guess at) of the time this is not an issue. It is not all that often that we come across those people who are deliberately hurtful, unpleasant, rude or who deliberately attempt to belittle you. But that minority of people and the things they say can have a large impact on the way we feel about ourselves and our confidence.  So in certain ways, depending on your perspective, we are powerless. But are we? Not if we consider Aspect Two.

Aspect Two – Know your strengths, Know Your Abilities & Use Them

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The second aspect that needs to be considered is the ability accept the limitations of your injury, acknowledge what you can do and give yourself credit and praise for what you have done. I know from personal experience that after a brain injury we tend to spend much of our time lamenting and resenting our losses. There are abilities and skills that we don’t have any more; things that were a part of who we were. That’s just it though, that’s who we were. We’re someone very different now and while certain things have been lost, certain things will also remain. The difficulty is recognizing and acknowledging this change in abilities and acknowledging the abilities and talents we do have.

After everything we have been through, we spend too much time discrediting ourselves, not giving ourselves enough praise for our talents and skills. As I have stated in previous posts, brain injuries are never identical and everyone is affected differently. For people hoping to live independently post ABI or TBI in whatever aspect (living situation, social skills, finding and keeping employment, managing finances etc.) it is essential that we see what we have and what we don’t have NOW in terms of talent and ability and equally important, ensure that we tailor our recovery and our move towards independence to the strengths and not the weaknesses. If we have issues with memory, perhaps avoid things that involve meticulous detail. If you have job experience prior to the injury that can be used maybe apply for jobs or voluntary work that is similar or the same, if you are good at talking and communication try to implement that to your benefit. All of your talents can be used as a way to strengthen your position in almost any aspect of YOUR OWN life. Once we acknowledge that these strengths and talents exist and that they can help you in ways you had not previously considered it can open a surprising amount of doors for you. Also, knowing that you have these talents and being aware of the opportunities they can provide and how you can capatalise on said opportunity to your benefit can increase confidence and produce a more positive state of mind. It’s amazing the effect success has. The key thing to take away from these successes is that YOU DID IT, YOU SUCCEEDED, IT WAS YOU AND YOUR TALENTS. NOW, YOU ARE REEPING YOUR REWARD. When we get to this stage, successes are starting to come, opportunities are presenting themselves and you are feeling good, safe in the knowledge that IT WAS YOU WHO ACHIEVED THESE THINGS, then can we can start to turn success into the confidence building discipline that is Positive Affirmation.

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As I said earlier, success breeds confidence. As confidence builds and successes continue to occur we must use these tools to build a wall around ourselves that make us almost impervious to the opinions of others. The key to this is self-belief. We need to know and tell ourselves that, given our health situation and all the obstacles we have to overcome to get things done, we are still achieving, still succeeding, we are overcoming the odds. The trick is then to turn this knowledge into a tool. Each morning we need to wake up and we need to know and believe all of those previous statements. We need to tell ourselves these things each morning: “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” and so on. The important thing is to then act on these statements; be capable, do the best you can, do a good job. If you can tell yourself this at the end of a day before bed, I can tell you personally that you will sleep a lot easier. It also helps when the critics and the haters give their normally unnecessary and uninformed opinions (when I say uninformed I’m talking about what they say to you without knowing the or even having the slightest comprehension what you as an ABI patient have been and are still going through) it becomes easier to brush them off without the words affecting you as strongly as words and the way they are spoken have the power to do.

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That self belief, those three phrases; “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” should be part of the foundation for recovery, the transition into and development of a well rounded and fulfilling independent life, as should the praise for any other personal targets and goals that you achieve. With this type of belief system and a supportive network of friends and family behind you sharing this positive attitude, I think you will be amazed at how drastically it can change your opinion of yourself.        

Ignoring The Haters

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When we can master these arts of acknowledging the things we can control and the things we can’t, acknowledging our successes and using them as motivational tools as well as accepting the ways, attitudes, opinions and their right to express those things then, with the right attitude, you (as I have found) will find that the words of other people don’t matter very much.

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People have opinions, they can express them in whatever way they please. However, I believe in myself. I know that “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” and this, in the end is what truly matters. If you can look at yourself in the mirror in the morning or at the end of the day, or look a supportive family member or friend straight in the eye and say them and mean it, then you will have the art of Self Affirmation mastered and it will bear fruit for as long as you keep practicing it.

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Managing My Mental Health

Managing My Mental Health

What To Do Next?

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In last week’s post (Identifying The Triggers) I talked about the combination of identifying the conscious thought and memories that sparked off the chain reaction that is a negative thought pattern. Within that same post, I also mentioned the discipline of Mindfulness and being aware of ones thoughts and where they lead so that we can learn what the triggers are and discipline our mind to avoid thinking about those particular negative thoughts altogether.

However I realize that this is firstly, not a solution to the issues regarding emotional triggers that can be used in the here and now as it is a discipline that takes a lot of effort and a certain time to master (as do the many other positive meditative states that we can learn). Secondly many people will be asking, “if I choose to investigate ideas regarding meditation, mindfulness and mind training and it takes a long time to master these methods how can I help myself in the mean time?” Well, this is what today’s post is about. Using examples of my own experiences and my own triggers, I will provide examples of how I managed to work my way around everyday situations where my switches that brought on dark spells were more than likely going to be flipped. I will also talk about them in order of which most regularly affect me in day-to-day life.

My Mental Health Problems & Triggers

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Anxiety & Paranoia – This is by far the most pressing issue for me. It happens most of all when I go out in public to engage or socialize with people. Only when I return to my home, in a quiet, comfortable environment does this feeling recede. When I go out in public, particularly when there are a lot of people around, I constantly feel as though I am in jeopardy and that the people around me are a threat or are there to harm me. I think this is mainly because of how my injury occurred, an unprovoked attack on a street corner. It means that when I go out I can never really relax or be at ease. If I am going to a particular place, as many people with any issues regarding anxiety problems will say, it is not the same as something like depression where you find yourself in that state and don’t know how you got there. You are aware of the sense of uneasiness and anxiety building as you approach your destination. The sense can be overwhelming. For me it has now got to the point that even when good things happen, I often find myself bent over with my head between my knees, taking deep breaths and choking back tears. I am shocked when good things happen to me, that good things can happen to me, such is the extent of my anxiety and paranoia.

I find that the biggest external factors that influence my state of anxiety and paranoia tend to be crowded places and invasion of personal space, loud and relentless noise and long and complex conversation and questioning. In terms of internal factors, the first one is a big contradiction to the one above where I mentioned personal space. I often feel as if I am exposed, too visible and that people are staring at me or watching me. The second is that when in social situations and talking to people I fear that they are judging me and disliking me (who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? I think that’s more the. I want to be accepted for who I am, regardless of my condition).

Despite the extent to which it affects me, I have to acknowledge that going out in public is not something that I can avoid. (As I say that, I must confess to you that the amount I go out, socialize, number of friends I have and my ability to form and maintain relationships have decreased hugely since my ABI. My inabilities to manage my emotions in social situations that are in busy locations combined with the difficulties I have in trusting people are the main contributor to this). What I can do is try to avoid the things that have a tendency to really exacerbate my mental state of anxiety. These are the steps that I take to try and ensure that I master myself in public and in social situations.

  • Arrive EarlyI always try my best to arrive early. Very often by arriving early and doing what you need to do quickly and efficiently, you can avoid the mad crowds and the hustle and bustle.
  • ALWAYS Bring My iPod When I mentioned noise and crowds and the way it makes my feeling of anxiety worse, I always bring my iPod. On my iPod I have an album of Mindfulness/Relaxation music composed especially to be relaxing. It does not have any lyrics, it is just gentle music you can absorb, not interpret and analyse. It helps me to walk through the crowds, block out the noise and be at peace in my mind.
  • Strategic PlacementWhen entering a place, say a café or pub, I strategically position myself at a table with my back to the wall where I can see the whole floor as best as possible. It eases the feeling that someone can come up behind me and I can see the other people in the place. This gives me comfort, I’m not sure why.
  • Always Do Your BestThis may seem like a fairly obvious one. I do feel that we need to try and test ourselves when it comes so socializing and see where the line is regarding how much we can handle. Very often found that at the start of a social engagement, I find myself to be anxious or nervous for one of or many of the reasons I listed above. However, I think that the more we can make ourselves comfortable at the start, the easier it is to continue when a social situation gathers speed. There are ways in which to manage anxiety throughout interaction and exchange, whether through breathing exercises, disengaging slightly and allowing other people to do the majority of the talking or just taking a step outside for some fresh air and space every now and again. I used to fear that doing these kind of things may make a bad impression and that people will found me weird or antisocial. Trust me when I say that the people worth socializing with are the ones who will understand why you are doing this and accept that, for you, it is a necessity  

Depression

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 Issues regarding depression have been slightly less of an issue for me over the last year or two. I have become less concerned by what people think of my disability and the effect it has had on me. I have found that I am quite happy in my own company. I have mentioned in past posts and in my blogging work on the Headway Worcestershire site, I have found that I am able to stand on my own two feet with just the support of my family such was the degree of which many of my so called “friends” left me to deal with the consequences.

However, as a result I would now say I am not the most sociable person in the world, mainly due to the issues with anxiety and paranoia I listed above. I don’t have that many people that I feel I can trust or confide in and I spend a lot of time on my own. To contradict the statement in the previous paragraph, when I say that I am happy in my own company, I would hasten to add that MOST of the time, that is the case.

When certain things happen in your life, whether they revolve around relationships, ambitions or just general musings about your own situation, it would be nice to have someone to confide in that is not a blood relative. There is only so much you can or even want to tell a parent or a sibling. So you look back at days where you had those confidents and that outlet simply from picking up a phone to arrange a meeting. What I’m saying I suppose is that it can be a very lonely existence.

I also have a tendency to look at the lack of spontaneity that my life has now. The resentment towards the fact that my life is now mostly dictated by a routine that my health and livelihood depends on can have a very large impact on the way that you view life. For example, the few very good friends in my life (friends from university who are scattered all over the country) are arranging a “Lads Holiday” for the summer. Now, before my ABI I have gone on a few “Lads Holidays” and I know what they entail. I know for a fact that many of the activities that would take place would not be possible for me to take part in. It is extremely painful to have to admit that by making the sensible decision for my health, my disability is excluding me from being involved in something with my best friends that, prior to my injury, would have been something I would’ve enjoyed greatly.  

Finally, the biggest regret that I think all ABI victims have is the mourning of the losses we have suffered. It is easy to become depressed by looking at the things we can’t do anymore and resenting the loss of certain skills, capacities and abilities we had. All of these things combined can have a tendency to pull my mood down and get stuck in that never-ending cycle of thinking negatively and resenting both my overall situation and myself.

Over the last few weeks I have spoken of mindfulness. I have studied the disciplines of mindfulness, positive thinking and so forth but as you see from what I have written above (which are only a smattering of the thoughts I have that affect my mood), I have clearly not mastered it so that my issues with depression and low mood are totally under control. But here are some of the ways I try to help myself when these periods of depression take control.

  • Be Pro-Active – By this what I mean is to have something that you are moving towards. I find that these ill feelings and poisonous thoughts occur most often when things in my life are static and I feel that I am going nowhere. Exert your energies as regularly as possible into things that fill you up, things that make you feel good. Don’t just do them for the sake of doing them though. Try and set yourself a goal or target to reach. It could be a target to do with your physical health, with certain abilities, employment or anything! Stay occupied and be ambitious is the advice I would give. There is no reason why we, as people with disabilities can’t achieve the things we want, the same as anyone else.
  • Try To See The Beauty In Life – This is one of the things I have found particularly over the last few months. When you look at the world try and see the beauty around you. It probably sounds corny or cheesy but it is there; the ocean, the fields, laughing children, the beauty of the world is all around us. All we have to do is find it and see it for what it is and through that lens. That life is beautiful and that it can be beautiful for us to.
  • Consume Positive Media – This plays a big part in helping me when I’m struggling with issues of depression. Depression is like being trapped in a cell with no windows, the air is stifling, it can be claustrophobic and it can even feel as though drawing breath is a chore or a difficulty. When we trapped in that cell, we need for a light to come on and a window to be opened. When we feel more comfortable and at ease with ourselves, the light becomes brighter, it’s easier to breathe and we can see the door. We can turn the handle and struggle our way out. Despite previous posts where I have highlighted the negative impact of the media and the way that television news and newspapers have portrayed people with disabilities over the last 4/5 years, media can also have a positive impact on the way we feel about ourselves and the way we see things. There are poems, books, short stories, film and music. All that tell the story of good deeds, talk about the emotions that are the antithesis to depression; love, hope, friendship, beauty, bravery, independence, doing the right thing and overcoming adversity. I find, very often, that the things we consume can be the catalyst for the light we need when we are locked in the cell that is depression.
  • Positive AffirmationAlways take a moment at the beginning of each day and at the end of each day to look at what you have done and recognize your achievements. Take even the smallest victory you have had and take the time to give yourself credit for that and make sure that you recognise that you were the one who did it. We are often too quick to pass on credit for the little things we have done to others or acknowledge that without a certain circumstance it could not have happened. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the credit for your own achievements! No one else did it, YOU DID!

Anger & Irritability

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 This has certainly become less of an issue now since I have taken more control over my own life. Over the last 9/10 months, I made the decision to focus on my blogging and writing full time so that I could control my situation. I realized that the main trigger for the anger and irritability I was suffering was down to situations I couldn’t control (customer’s at work, accidents or disorganization at work). When I returned home I would take out my anger and frustrations on my family. I realised that I needed a change. So here is my advice for those who are suffering from similar situations.

  • Take Control Most often it is an external presence that is causing the anger issues we are suffering from. For me it was work and the frustrations and other issues that came from it (I was working as a waiter!). Often people feel that this external presence can be an obstacle that cannot be passed or altered. It is absolutely not the case. We have to take control of our lives; it is just about working up the nerve to do it! Using work as an example, I found that to control the hours I worked, to not have to follow the instructions of others and not be under a pressure to present myself (in terms of my personality) to people and not have to worry about potential mishaps in that environment has helped me massively and that many of the anger issues I was suffering from have abated.
  • Have An Outlet Find a way to relieve any issues of anger you have through an outlet that is either fun or constructive. Many people use exercise for instance. Though I find that is more useful for me to relax and find piece of mind and lift my mood. My outlet in fact is a more sedentary one. I play video games. Mostly first person shooters and shooter games anyway. But this also has a second advantage, not only do I get to blow stuff up and shoot the opposition in my games, it is also suggested in research that playing video games can be beneficial post-ABI (unless you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy) as it exercises multiple brain functions at the same time (sensory function, cognitive thought via gaming strategies, co-ordination and dexterity of the hands by using the controller, and testing fatigue by how much you can play as they do stimulate the brain very much). Either find an outlet that is fun, constructive or both.
  • Draw A Line – There has to be a line where the issues of work or whatever it is that initiates these feelings of anger is drawn. There are obviously serious matters that need to be considered and have every right to make you mad, but there are certain issues you just have to accept are out of your control and should not or will not affect you.The action of others for example, which was a large issue for me, and my reaction to them, was something I had to find a way to control. The actions of customers and even work colleagues could drive me to the brink of despair. But once I got my head around the fact that I had no control over what those people do or say, the problems became less common.It is kind of like picking your battles in your own mind. There are things that we have every right to get angry about but there are some things that get us so worked up it doesn’t seem to be a proportional reaction. It’s about accepting what we can control and what we can’t as well as having a reasonable expectation of fairness and what is right.

Face to Face With Myself

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So, this is me in all my dysfunctional glory. I hope that some of the techniques I suggested in handling my mental health issues can prove useful to anyone who reads this. I realize I have droned on a lot longer than usual but I hope it will be worth it so I can try to help people tackle the nitty-gritty of mental health and actually help people find productive ways to help themselves along the way after something as life altering as an ABI. I think it is fair to say that when we know ourselves, how our mind works and where the emotional weak points are, then we will be better prepared for mastering those emotions and mental states when they start to take control. Thanks for reading. Remember; check out my Twitter page @ABIblogger and my Instagram page abi_blogger for more ABI info. Hope you’ll be back to read again soon.

Identifying Triggers

Identifying Triggers

Mental Health – The Triggers

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“Better the devil you know”

– Common Idiom

When it comes to mental health I believe that the above quote is a very appropriate one. Last week I spoke openly of depression, while this post applies to depression it also applies to other mental states as well so I’m hoping it will be useful to lots of people.

One of the biggest issues that I used to find was that the internal attacks on my mind from negative thoughts, whether they were attacks of anxiety, panic, depression or anger, seemed to be random. They were out of my control and I could never predict them. It was as though the most seemingly anything, whether it was a cataclysmic life changing event or stubbing my toe in the morning could shatter any fragile state of rare calm and peace I may have been feeling that day.

This opinion and state of mind persisted for a long time, as did my frail mental state. I was halfway through my second year at university when, I think it was my counselor Helen (to whom I owe an enormous debt to. I don’t know if I would’ve survived university if I had not used those weekly one hour session to let my guard down and talk about the things that were troubling me) where she mentioned sleep therapy and mindfulness meditation sessions at the Southampton City Library. Mindfulness is something I will talk about thoroughly in later posts, but it was during these session that I learned my entire outlook on mental health, the control of my mental state and my subsequent mood were entirely within my control.

 

Unconscious Thought Patterns

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In the days prior to my brain injury, I would have considered myself a very happy, outgoing and positive person. I think that I had a good outlook on life and I knew roughly where I was going and what I wanted to do. Now, the brain is an enormously complex machine. It sends messages all around the body to keep it functioning. It tells us what to do. To use a geeky metaphor it is the motherboard to our computer. It sends out the various signals without us being aware that it is doing so. For example, a person decides to go for a walk. When they leave their front door and have selected their destination and the brain issues the command “begin to walk”, the brain unconsciously does the work. It is not a series of conscious instructions where our inner monologue is saying, “right foot forward, now left foot forward, now right foot again…” and so on. The reason for that is that walking is such an essential everyday function it has become programmed and so engrained that it is almost an automated function, programmed deeply into our brains. We do it without thinking about it, we aren’t aware of the thought process and it does not leave a trail. Many of our physical attributes and skills operate in this way, as an automatic pre-programmed function. That is when we are talking about physical functions and physical actions, our mental functioning and the processes that dictate it is a very different story.

Inner Monologue and Memories – Conscious Thought Patterns

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When it comes to emotional and mental health, states of depression and low mood do not just happen. For us to end up in a state where we feel that low or that anxious, the thoughts that travel around our brains have to follow a certain path to arrive at the self destructive destination that is panic or depression or any other state of mind that drives us to distraction. Often, the vehicle that pushes us towards those undesirable locations of angst, irritability and negative thought are conscious thoughts, in other words, thoughts we are aware of. Often they are thoughts or memories we have rummaged through the archives to find. Ones we have chosen to analyse, reflect and look back on.

Certain thoughts evoke certain emotional responses. Positive thoughts instigate a positive emotional response while negative thoughts produce a negative emotional response. If we take that to be true then people who suffer from mental health problems and feel as though they cannot control their thought patterns and the subsequent emotional responses, with the right discipline, patience and hard work, in fact CAN learn to master and control them. It is a case of learning what the TRIGGERS for said thought patterns are. Unlike unconscious thought patterns, conscious thought patterns DO leave a trail. If we can follow the trail, analyse and monitor our thoughts carefully, then we can identify if there are any particular thoughts or memories that act as a trigger for a negative emotional response, giving us back more control.

Finding & Identifying The Triggers

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Think of our thoughts as the first time you take a long journey in a car. It is a journey which you will have to make many times in the future. Inevitably, it will take a while to learn the correct way to the desired destination. There are many alternative routes, many turns that come off the main road and in some cases, dead ends that don’t really go anywhere and worst of all, roundabouts. Roundabouts where we keep going round in circles trying to find the right road that gets us out of the never ending cycle of going round and round and round. In our minds, we can often take a wrong turn that leads us down a wicked road. We can try to get back on course on our own and we try a few different turnings to get us back on course, but finding our way back is extremely difficult. However, if we take time to study and analyse our thoughts, we become aware of the side roads, the junctions and where the roundabouts are that can send us in the wrong direction. Mastering this type of discipline will act as your road map.

As I said in the introduction to this post, this discipline is a key component of a meditation known as Mindfulness. A particular part of Mindfulness focuses on learning about our minds, the way they work and the thoughts we have. Then we can analyse certain trains of thought and where they lead. It is about identifying the particular thoughts that send us in the wrong direction where we end up lost and in a terrible place with no idea where we are or how we got there. By identifying the particular turn offs (I.E. certain memories, how we view ourselves, certain things we think about life and the world in general, things beyond our control etc.) and where that turn leads, we can avoid taking that particular turn off in the future, as we know that it leads us to a bad place. Those memories and thoughts are triggers for depression, anxiety, panic or anger. Once we know what the triggers are, when you come across them, is about mastering the ability to knowingly turn your thoughts around and send them in another direction. As that becomes easier and you master that discipline it is then a case of turning that conscious effort into unconscious thought, of doing it without thinking.

Where Does The Quote Come In?

In fact, the full Idiom I quoted at the top is as follows:

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

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The point I making here by referencing this very wise and very intelligent saying is to reinforce the entire message this post has been sending (or, at least trying to send). That once we have identified certain weaknesses or problems we are much better equipped to develop strategies that allow us to accept them and manage our lives around them. By being aware of the weaknesses and problems we have and developing strategies that allow us to cope with them, we can the live a fuller live without mental (or physical because the idiom does apply to both) health being a serious impediment or a shadow that we have to live our lives under forever more. Once we identify the devils inside us we can figure out ways that work for us on how best not to engage with them.

Go Back A Step – Depression

Go Back A Step – Depression

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their continued support and interest in my blog over the pact eight or nine months. I have had some wonderful responses and talked to some inspirational people, with amazing stories who have overcome many similar obstacles (and in some cases more) that I have. There are also those that are still struggling and I am glad that you have taken the time to read my words, whether they offer, hope, knowledge or even just a different way of looking at things, it is amazing just to have my work taken seriously.

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I would also like to take a moment to offer an apology. Over the last few weeks, I have really struggled with issues of my own regarding depression, anxiety and just a general feeling of negativity. I have overworked myself over the past month, taken on too much and as a result my writing and commitment to you, the readers, has not been good enough.

Where I Failed

Over the past few weeks my linear narrative (which was focused on issues around depression, as will the posts over the next few weeks) has been disrupted by many events like ABI week, National Epilepsy Week and so forth. Over the past month I felt my mind and my thoughts sinking into the bog that is the negative thought process of depression: easy to get into, extremely difficult to get out of. My passion was waning and I produced content that was average at best and I knew was average but posted it anyway. There was a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of passion and to be honest, just a lack of care.

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After I had pulled myself out of this funk of depression and negativity I went back over the content I had posted and saw that the quality was poor. Not just in terms of the content that was written but just as much in the content that was not written, particularly when I spoke of what we go through (Mental Health: What We’re Dealing WithMental Health: What We’re Dealing With (Part 2)Post-ABI: Depression) with regards to our mental frailty and fragile mental health post-ABI. If there is anything I can say about the previous post on depression it is that it was written in very broad terms, talking only in a general way, about the issue and about things that people who have never experienced it generally presume to know anyway. What I didn’t write about is the feeling nobody other than someone who has suffered from depression will know: the dangerous period of time where people hit the bottom. When people feel as though they have no escape, no way out and that life is a game that they don’t want to play anymore. This is a serious discussion that is often avoided (I myself skipped ahead in my last post, Depression – The Positive Effects of Exercise, trying to provide methods of recovery when I had not fully explained the severity of depression.) At times in my recovery, I have felt that way and I will try my best to shed some light on why I felt the way I did and hopefully redeem myself for some pretty poor work over the past month.

Where the Depression Stems From

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As I have stated in past posts, in the early stages of recovery is where the seed is sewn regarding depression. We are mourning the loss of our former selves, the loss of certain abilities, brain functions and physical function, talents and personality traits. However what I believe to be the water that gives this seed the nourishment to grow is the feeling of, as we become more aware of our situation in passing months, a feeling of uselessness. You begin to question what exactly is your function and whether this will be your condition forever. When you are in the situation where you are gradually adjusting to living life with an acquired brain injury, it is difficult to see past the present and look to the future. Only with the right support from the right people can you avoid this trap. If you slip into a state of mind where, seeing what others around you are doing to support you, you end up asking yourself, am I a burden? Am I useless?

You Are Not a Burden

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As I say above, when you see what others are doing around you to help your recovery it can feel as though you are a burden. For a long time after my injury (the severity of which took complex brain surgery to save my life) I thought, “I wish I could just die!” Or I kept asking myself, “would it have been better if they had just let me die?”

The answer to that is a short and simple one, NO.

We all have something to contribute to this world everyone’s presence is vital. I firmly believe that. What we have to ask ourselves is that when parents and siblings, cousins, whoever do the things, do they do them out of obligation? Of course not, the reason that they do it is because they love us and have hope that things can get better for us. It is a hope that we need to find ourselves during recovery and it is a difficult thing to obtain. But as recovery slowly progresses we will find ourselves being able to do a certain thing that we weren’t able to do a few months ago (using examples from my own experience now, get up and walk down the stairs). That provides hope. We slowly improve on certain things and obtain other new skills that ease certain pressures on the people who are caring for us (being able to go to the bathroom and bathe without support). That provides hope.

There is also something to the notion that accepting that you need help is a big stage of conquering depression. Accepting that there will be setbacks and negative outcomes along the way is essential. It took me a long time to recognize and accept this notion. I think that is a result of that idea of mourning and that sense of loss that you feel after an ABI, that a thing that you used to be able to do so easily is now a real struggle. It makes you so angry that (in most cases) a situation that was not in your control has left you in this state. Getting over that resentment is the hardest part of ABI recovery in my opinion. It is only in the last year or two that the anger in me has subsided. In this particular situation it is a case of learning to control that anger and finding a suitable and constructive outlet.

It is my belief that the key to seeing through the mist that is that early stage of hopelessness, is to take the little victories that you achieve, hold on to them and keep them close. Because if you can achieve that, there are certainly other things you can do. I would also advise you to accept the help that is offered and listen to the positive words and the advice of those around you. Why not set yourself a larger goal for the long term?

Futures & Goals

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I was barely aware of what a future might entail. It took a lot of verbal support and a carefully monitored recovery plan (that was always adaptable and in transition) and the help of a (very) small number of workers assigned to my post-discharge rehab for me to see that there might even be a future. Establishing the fact that enough people believed in me, that I still had the abilities and that I could achieve things if worked hard enough was what enabled me to set myself a target and work towards a future. Trust me when I say this, the people who love you have these hopes for you to. They know you can achieve the things you want with the right amount of determination and the right work ethic. As for me, that target (getting back into education) was the closest thing to a long-term target I had, what I would do after that? That was another target to be set when I had achieved the first one.

I was extremely fortunate to achieve my goal and that the outcome was the best I could hope for. During my time at university, having a spent a year at home to recover, I was forced to try and confront all the challenges that I had struggled with. The things I had had to learn at home (cooking, regular bathing, cleaning my room etc.) were now completely up to me and I didn’t have anyone immediately near by to fall back on. It was a long, hard and some points miserable time. For the most part though, it was good for me, not just in terms of improving my health and my skills but in helping me socialise and learn new things. It was a big gamble for me to go to university but it is one I am glad I took. That can be a big contributor to improving your state of mind; changing your surroundings and challenging yourself!

We Need To Look Forward

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All people, whether fully abled people or people with a disability can contribute big things to the world. Everyday and throughout human existence you hear stories of great men and women achieving things, not just building a future for themselves but going down in history. Look at people such as Stephen Hawking, the greatest mind the world has ever known, confined to a wheelchair due to Motor-Neuron disease. Julius Caesar, according to studies of records and history, suffered from Epilepsy (or mini-strokes according to new findings) and he was the ruler of the Roman Empire and the reason that the empire was the size it was in the first place (that isn’t me advocating revolution and imperial dictatorship, but hey!). As a final example, David Weir (six time Paralympian gold medalist wheelchair racer) became the person in a wheelchair to complete a mile in less than three minutes.

My point being that we all have something within us that lead us onto greatness. After something like an ABI and while trapped in the quagmire of depression, anger and resentment that comes shortly afterwards, we need to find something to hold on to. Whether these are our own achievements, the love and support of family, friends or spouses or simply a determination to succeed in the pursuit of a long-term goal, they are the flames that keep burning and produce light in the dark, dank caves that are our minds during serious periods of depression. It is essential that, whatever you do, you do not let that light go out!

Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With (Part 2)

Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With (Part 2)

Just so that people know, this post is directly following on from last week’s post Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With so if you are just starting to read my blog I would advise you to go back to the last few weeks and my writings (ideally Only lessons, Simplifying ABI Recovery, The Importance Of Family, A Cruel World In The UK. I realise that it is a lot of reading but this post is part of a larger discourse so sorry for that). My main aim of the last month or so is to try and get people to understand how we, the ABI patients, in turn making it easier for people to try and understand what it is we live with in day-to-day life. So here comes part 2.

Affecting All Aspects Of Life

Last week I spoke at great lengths regarding the manner of the changes that happen when a brain has been damaged after something like an ABI or TBI. My aim last week was to try and put those changes that are so hard to put into words into a (potentially) real life, everyday situation that people could relate to. I wanted people to see and understand the confusion that occurs after ABI, the lack of familiarity, the feeling of being out of your comfort zone, and most importantly that these changes are not a gradual decline; these changes are foisted upon you in a life changing instant.

I used memory as a subject because everybody has a memory and certain times when they forget things. Memories are a key part of who we are and it is a good way to expand upon the subject of “What We’re Dealing With” because everyone knows that feeling when you suddenly forget something that you know is important, or that frustrating feeling when you know that you know something but you can’t find it amongst the stores of other memories and information, but at least people without an ABI know it’s there to be found and where to find it.

This is the real issue after an ABI; having to learn again where different information is, finding out what information remains, what abilities you have lost and whether anything that has been lost, damaged or changed can be recovered.

Where Last Week Comes In

Last week I spoke about the brain in terms of an organ and likened it to a house, rooms that have different uses and contain different equipment, tools and information. Each room has a specific purpose and which you go to when a particular need or skill has to be accessed out of necessity and I wanted to show that after an ABI or TBI that the rooms have had items moved or swapped around or even removed entirely. The example I gave last week of making a cup of tea and being unable to find the necessary items to make it because everything had been muddled up.

As I said, I used memory as my example because the feeling is a universal one. All of us at some point have had our memory fail us but with the notion that we have all of other cognitive functions to help us retrieve the memory from a well organized fully functioning brain. But what happens when the rest of the functions AREN’T there to compensate? What if the lapse is not a momentary one, but one you have to fight against for the rest of your life? And it’s affecting many different/all areas of your brain?

Deep Rooted Confusion & Anger

The reason that I chose to use an example that everyone (ABI or no ABI) could relate to was to try and give an people an understanding of the next piece of the puzzle, something that not many people will have gone through. That is a complete questioning of who you are post-injury. The effects of the injury go from things such as what makes us who we are on a social level, the stuff that is closer to the surface such as interests, habits, likes and dislikes and so on. However it also goes far deeper, into both physical psychological issues such as emotional impairments, changes in sexual behaviors, cognitive processes, issues with speech vision and of course, physical disabilities.

Now if you can, imagine my memory example from last week and the type of confusion that would cause and think of dealing with that, alongside the issues (which are just a few ways an ABI can manifest itself) I named in the previous paragraph. All of those functions that we relied on, overnight, no longer work at the speed we want them to, in the way we want them to and in a way that we are familiar with. The point I am trying to make (and I may be making it in a rather blunt and heavy handed fashion so I apologise if that is the case) is that all of these changes are happening simultaneously and we have to find ways to deal with and cope with each individual problem while the others are there just below the surface waiting to trip us up as we go.

All of these changes happening at once lead to a deep-rooted confusion as to who are now compared to who we used to be before our injury. This is the other issue that can be often overlooked; we have a basis for comparison. We can look at ourselves before the brain injury and compare who we are now to that previous version of ourselves – the fully functioning person that did not have to deal with or think about any of these problems. For me this caused a huge amount of resentment and anger towards both the person who had inflicted my injury upon me, towards the world and its injustices in general and worst of all resentment towards myself. I resented who I was, what I had become, the unfairness that my livelihood had been taken away and at the time, the early stages of recovery, I thought this was who I was, who I would be for the rest of my days. Alongside these feelings of anger and confusion there are a whole plethora of other emotions and states of mind that came with them: loneliness, fear, nervousness, anxiety (there are many more) all about who I was now compared to who I used to be and how I had changed. When I was around people I used to ask myself: “I know I’ve changed and that I’m different, so they must know it too. What if they hate me? What if they think I’m stupid? What if they don’t love me or don’t want me anymore?”

Looking To The Future

After an ABI very rarely is there a cause for hope straight away. I personally found it extremely difficult to look beyond the moment I was in, the day I was living and experiencing. Basically what we’re dealing with after an a brain injury is a monumental, internal change both mental and physical. In the early stages as you come to terms with the types of changes I have talked about, you realise that the life you led previously is gone and you spend a lot of your days just existing, making it through the day while wallowing in and mourning your losses. However, I need to emphasise that there is a cause for hope. These last two posts have not been the most positive or uplifting ones, I am aware of that. That was not their purpose. The purpose of the last two posts has been to try and help people understand the turmoil and chaos going on inside the brains of ABI patients in the hope that I can, over the next weeks/month post useful information that can help overcome the disorder and internal conflict that can so often boil over over and spill out into the real world. I want to try and help anyone who is reading my blog to try and see that there is a future out there for you and I’m going to try and help you reach for that future and it’s successes and options so you can grab it with both hands.

Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With

Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With

Over the last four weeks, barring any reposts I simply saw as supplying useful information, my posts (Only lessons, Simplifying ABI Recovery, The Importance Of Family & A Cruel World In The UK) have intended to be a sort of guide to steering clear of and warning you of negative influences, environments and the potential negative outcomes of certain ways of thinking. The aim, trying to create something of a guide to controlling aspects of life after an ABI and if you are a patient protecting yourself or protecting the patient if you are a carer from the steep slope that is mental health problems that often manifest themselves during the recovery process.

Things like depression or anxiety, both of which are devastating mental health issues that are taken far too lightly in today’s society, can have catastrophic consequences for anyone let alone for patients post-ABI. In my previous posts I have talked about environment within the home and the exterior influences that can contribute to mental health issues. Over the next few weeks I will be talking about other contributory factors that can supply mental health issues with the fuel they need to really gain momentum. Today’s post will be giving focus to the way an ABI feels for a person who has just suffered one (or how I felt when I first came to and was discharged from hospital) and how that can feel.

This, for me was one of the biggest factors that contributed to issues with depression and anxiety, though it is more of a long term one. After a severe brain injury everything is different. I have tried hard the last few weeks to think of an appropriate metaphor or simile to communicate what living with an ABI is like for people who don’t have one and this is the best I could come up with, so please hear me out.

How Best To Describe Having An ABI To Those Who Don’t: “The House Simile”

Before the injury, your brain is like your house. You know where everything is, every room has its uses and within those rooms there are things that you use, let’s say the kitchen for example. Within the kitchen there is a fridge, a cooker, a sink and all the usual equipment needed for everyday use. But also, there are cupboards that have designated uses: cupboards containing food, drink, pots and pans. Then there are the draws that contain knives, forks, spoons, and chopping boards, also essential equipment but kept separate. Then there is a cupboard that contains things that we don’t use very often; the pasta maker your aunt brought back from Italy as a gift, the super shredder cheese grater bought on a whim and so on, rarely used but still kept in storage for if it is ever needed.

What I am saying is that that the brain is almost compartmentalized: each section (or room for the sake of my simplistic simile) has different places where different things are kept so we can find, retrieve and use them whenever we need to.

Now, imagine that you wake up one morning and enter your kitchen. You go to make yourself a cup of tea with the plan of watching some TV and having a sit down, relaxing for a while. You go to the cupboard to get a cup but upon opening that cupboard instead of cups, you find a pile of papers that are normally kept in the desk draw upstairs in your office. You look through the papers, rummaging until finally at the back of the top shelf you find a chipped, cracked old mug. Once you’ve found the mug, you open the box of tea bags to find it is empty so you struggle through different storage compartments of the kitchen until you find them. Then there is the process of boiling the water, the process seems to take longer than usual, frustratingly longer in fact but the kettle eventually whistles and you make your tea. You normally take sugar but you have abandoned that for now because of the way that your house, with its usual familiarity, set out in a way you know has been so unceremoniously changed and rearranged. You go to the lounge and the sofa has been removed, your bed has been left in its place…

You see what I mean? Imagine if that scenario occurred in real life, most of the rooms and their contents had been swapped around and rearranged. How long would it take you to return all the things to exactly the same place they were before? Not a close position, the EXACT position, it is an impossibility. Imagine in five years time, even when you had returned everything as close to it’s original place as you could, that you were still finding/not finding items that were/weren’t there yesterday, that you had used yesterday but now you cannot find again.

That is the best way I can describe having an ABI to anyone who doesn’t have one. I worked a long time on that simile and I hope that it has made things easier to understand and enabled those without an ABI to see it from a patient’s perspective. As the title suggests, that is what we live with everyday. A lack of familiarity with how our brain works since the injury. If we were to take an example from my own life, the place where I keep certain memories has been damaged. When someone asks me to recall a certain situation, I flick through the memory bank like it’s an old photo album, only to find that some of the pictures that captured precious memories have been removed. “No I don’t remember that occasion” is the response I give. I get a quizzical look from that person that clearly implies a response of stupidity or indifference on my part when really it is just a lack of information on the part of the person asking the question, if you see what I mean?

That Is What We Live With

Each day we, people with ABI’s/TBI’s of all sorts, try to get up and handle the manifestations of our injuries and we do the best we can. It is often forgotten, ignored or simply unknown by some people that these are the type of issues we are dealing with; trying to retrieve information that camouflages itself inside the different compartments of the brain or that has left it completely. During recovery, especially during the early stages of the process, the first day you go downstairs to find that everything has been changed, moved, replaced or removed, the anger, the frustration, the lack of understanding and confusion as to why your brain isn’t working properly is ferocious. I would say though that it takes a while before you’re even aware of the changes. In the first six month of my time at home it was like I was just floating through life in my own little bubble. Totally unaware of myself, the way I was talking, acting or moving. I was totally unaware of other people, their needs or any social codes or conventions. Eventually though, as I said, probably about six months after I arrived home I slowly started to become aware of myself and of the presence of others.

What Is My Point?

The purpose of this post is to help people to understand what it is that they are dealing with and the thought processes and the way the brain changes after something as traumatic as a brain injury. I wanted to try and tell you as accurately as I can what life is like dealing with an injury so that if you are a carer, you can get some kind of insight into how we are feeling and if you are a patient, maybe put how you feel into words a little more accurately than you could have done before. I hope I have managed to do that. As a final point, I would also add that this idea of unfamiliarity, this feeling of isolation,the frustration the anger, the confusion, all of it are the thing that contribute to mental health issues gaining momentum. I believe that if people understand something they are much better prepared to tackle the issue and hopefully find a solution. So I hope that my insights can provide you with some clarity, some idea of what living with a brain injury is like.

Thanks for reading and I hope you keep coming back. Please, join my mailing list here on WordPress and take a look at my Twitter page @ABIblogger for updates on my blogging/writing work and take a look at my Instagram page abi_wordpress_massey on ABI awareness. Thanks again for reading.

 

 

 

 

Brain Injury Recovery – Where Do I Want To Be?

N.B. Before we start, may I apologise for my absence recently in writing fresh blogs inconsistently for https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com, the last few weeks have been an unmitigated disaster regarding my epilepsy. You have been fantastic over the last five or six months and I can’t apologise enough. They have changed my medication now though, dosage and type, so from here I’m hoping for progress and more consistency on my part. Thank you again and please follow my blog, follow me on Twitter, my handle is @ABIblogger and share the posts on there, that would be immense! Now, we shall begin…

Going Back A Bit…

The lead up to this blog post goes quite a way back, so let’s start from there. Over the festive & New Year period, I was considering the idea of change and what that exactly entails. When I say change, I mean actual change. Not the usual rubbish you seem to get at that time of year; “I’m going to give up drinking,” or “I’m going to join the gym and go at least three times a week.” Most often, what actually happens is that the first promise is broken by the end of the first day back at work after the Christmas break when, after work, we’re gagging for a pint. The second is broken by a gym membership that is used three times, never used again but continues to take £19.99 out of our bank account every month for the next three years.

The problems with these examples are not the promises in themselves but the way in which they are made. The two examples I gave are very noble promises done with nothing but good intentions for the person’s health. However, while the promises in themselves are good ones, they are very rarely built on a foundation of reality, quite the opposite in fact. They are made in reflexive manner without thinking of the variables in their lives; the constraints on their time, their strengths and weaknesses and, in the end, the promise filled with good intent is doomed to failure.

Where We Are Now?

Now, my first post of the New Year spoke of the nature of self-assessment. Last week after a missed update (due to epilepsy related complications) I tried to lay it all out in the open for you in a way that was manageable in terms of length and that was hopefully readable and something you could all relate to. I would hope that in the month that has passed since I posted A New Year – Self Assessment (https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/a-new-year-self-assessment/) all of you who have been reading my blog have had time to look at yourself, look at your current situation and ask what is possible and what is not, assess your own abilities & disabilities, strengths & weaknesses, what you enjoy and what you do not (hopefully last weeks post – Where Am I Now – https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/where-am-i-now/ should have given you some indication as to the type of thing you need to think about) Hopefully, having thought about these things, asked those difficult questions and answered them, having really looked at yourself, you will be able to answer another tough question: where do I want to be?

Where Do I want To Be?

I think there are certain things that we, as victims of Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI’s), can all say. From here I am going to assess the four things in a brief way (if I want into depth on them I’d writing an essay!) that most of us have a burning desire for. Firstly, I will be putting them in no particular order. To give them any kind priority would be insensitive and ignorant on my part as I know that many of you reading this would put them in a different order, may have completely different permanent issues than me, and some people would want to exchange one or two for other things (also I have ways to link up the subjects quite nicely in terms of the flow of the writing and the way it reads). The plan will be to go into these topics in detail in the coming weeks in the order they are listed in today and how to potentially overcome and work around the obstacles that have been put in front of us through misfortune or chance.

Independent Living

When I say independent living, I am speaking in the broadest possible context. Independence can only be defined, interpreted and achieved to the extent that our brain injuries and the subsequent disabilities we suffer from allow us to. Whether we are able to live alone and manage all the complexities with it; complexities such as housing contracts, sorting out direct debits for paying the rent & bills, or paying for insurance and council tax. I myself did not realise the extent of the complexities and technicalities involved in just sorting through the bureaucracy of it all.

Then there are other options such as living with a professional carer, parents, other family members or partners being employed as a carer (for which you can receive a government funded carer’s allowance depending on your income). As well as the carer’s allowance there is also the social housing list and housing benefit depending on the severity of the disability of the disabled person involved and the income of the carer if they are not a professional and are someone like a parent or partner.

Finding Employment

When it is all signed, sealed, delivered, then comes the issue of supporting ourselves financially and accessing the support (both in terms of financial welfare and front line social services. In this section the issue of employment will be particularly important. Finding the right employer, the right type of work for someone in our position, working hours, contracts and unions.

There is also the important issue of not allowing us to be discriminated against by employers. It is unfortunate but it does still happen and in many different ways. The important thing is to recognise when you are being discriminated against and when you are being treated unfairly and how to respond to that situation.

Looking After Myself

Maintaining personal hygiene, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, cleaning your house or flat, washing your clothes. These are all important things we have to learn to cope with. But there is also the issue of building a social life, socializing with our peers, even forming romantic relationships. It is important to keep an eye on mental health as well as physical. It can be easy to slip into bouts of depression, aggression or mood swings. Here, I am speaking from experience; I know of what I speak.

All of these things come with independent living. Trust me, I have done it on three occasions, I am twenty-six and still living with my mum and dad.

To Have Control Of My Life Back

There are certain consequences of ABI that make life very difficult for me: panic attacks, mental health problems, increased stress, tonic-clonic epileptic seizures to name just a few. What I am going to do is work hard, research and learn as much as I can about my conditions and aspects that may benefit me: diet, exercise, things that may induce a seizure or a panic attack and record what I find. In the next year, I intend to know myself inside and out. So I can begin to take control and move forward.

These are the subjects, in that order, that I will be covering over the next four weeks. So come again next Thursday where I will be talking about independent living, the obstacles that we must overcome and the problems that are presented to us as disabled people. So follow Life After A Brain Injury  get the next update direct to your inbox. For more news and updates, follow me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @ABIblogger.com. Finally in addition to Twitter, I am just starting an Instagram page which is in its infancy but I would love for you to follow me on there as well, my user name is abi_wordpress_massey