As a 19-year survivor of severe traumatic brain injury I am sad to read and hear other survivor’s stories of struggle, worry, and frustration. I’m understanding to the feelings of fellow survivors but it is hard to go through life not being empathetic to everyone’s story. I’ve learned brain injury and its methods of coping are different for each of us. Due to these differences, we should be supportive of each member in our peer group! I can’t imagine walking in another survivor’s shoes, nor would I expect anyone to imagine my survival story.
I love to research things on the internet regarding brain injury. I also love to read insight provided by clinicians, survivors, or their families. I recently found a website called Love Your Brain, and on their page they talked about resilience. These were a couple of quotes I wanted to share:
“Resilience is your ability to adapt to adversity and find a way forward. This is different from recovery.”
“Rather than just trying to return to the person you were, you’re working to accept and evolve into the person you’re now becoming. The good news is everybody already has resilience, it’s just how you unlock it. “
What is resilience to me? Resilience can be many things at different times, but they are all motivators for me! For me, resilience was different from recovery because early in my recovery, I didn’t understand what I was recovering from. As a new patient at RIC, I was learning what worked and what didn’t work on my body. I did not know what to expect and I was too new to brain injury to know what to look for. My first 45 days as an inpatient at the rehab hospital felt like I was playing with an erector set without directions. This was my episode of trial and error with brain injury!
I spent my days problem solving with therapists and the visitors I had! When I wake up, going to the bathroom was my first issue of the day! However, I could not walk from the hospital bed to the bathroom. I had to find the urinal hanging on the bed, use it, and rehang it safely on the bed. Eventually, I needed to find someone to flush the urinal’s contents down the toilet before it is accidently knocked over. To wash my face and brush my teeth, I had to get into my wheelchair, and roll to the bathroom. Once in front of the sink, I put the wheelchair’s brakes on before standing up. This was my routine to brushing my teeth and hair and washing my face all with my right hand. After cleaning up, I had to grab my shorts with my right hand and move it into my left hand to hold. This allowed me to hold my shorts in place so I can get my left leg through, followed by my right leg. When I am putting on a t-shirt, I need to use my right arm to guide my left arm through the t-shirt sleeve hole before putting my right arm and head through the other holes.
As a survivor, I was coming to terms with what this horrific injury had done to me… There were days when I felt this was a bad dream and one morning I would wake up with everything feeling and working like it had in the past. But that was not my reality… I was problem solving every day with a body that felt foreign to me. I could not get body parts to move the way they previously had and in some cases they did not move when I wanted them too! After sitting down in my wheelchair for breakfast I was ready for my first therapy.
Early in my rehab days, I adapted to adversity the best way I could. Many things on my body did not work, so I had to problem solve to find a way forward. I was not quite sure what ‘forward’ looked like. However, I knew I was not going to be content with limited mobility. I wanted to go back to my premorbid activities, and I’m still trying new things today! After understanding my limitations, I worked on whatever I could to progress. Some steps were not perfect, but it was progress! I focused on each task, one movement at a time. I tried to break movements into pieces where I could master the pieces separately, until I could put them all together! Going back to bowling was a good example of this! Competing in sports again was my resilience! I had to take baby steps until I felt comfortable. Everyday was a struggle, but I refused to throw in the towel!
Keep pushing survivors!!
“LoveYourBrain Tips — LoveYourBrain.” LoveYourBrain , https://www.loveyourbrain.com/loveyourbrain-tips?gclid=CjwKCAjwrNmWBhA4EiwAHbjEQCkkQRbZWKO6ym52EGFUJLiT_crZNxsx87mnzkLR5j_Kqc4UNvcJrhoCT0gQAvD_BwE. Accessed 19 July 2022.