Working with TBI families is more then networking. It helps us better understand the injury as well as learn how to cope with the evolution of Corey’s recovery through those that have been living their “new normal”.
A common problem following a Brain Injury for a survivor is adjusting to their new life and interacting with people. There are reasons why relationships are so difficult. The first obvious outcome always results in the Survivor not being the same. Friends and family expect the same person in personality, temperament, and general reaction to events of everyday living.
Everyone has everyday problems to deal with whether they are injured or not. Examples include home repairs; car problems; general personal illnesses, daily shopping, maintaining a clean house and laundry while balancing a job, general personal interactions; etc. This is compounded by the lack of other abilities for the Survivor, such as motor movement, communication, extreme fatigue, and other daily specific symptoms unrelated to normal living.
The injured person is different in cognitive abilities and physical abilities. The Survivor therefore lacks the same coping skills in life as before he/she was injured.
People forget the Survivor of a mild to moderate injury is disabled because he/she may appear so normal. This is often the case and why the injury at this level is often called invisible. Of course many times the permanent physical signs such as walking or hand/arm ability is evident, but there may not be clear evidence of cognitive clarity. Also, there may be definite psychological compromises to acceptable personal interactions that are not evident until a response from the Survivor. These would include short/long term memory issues; confabulation, impulsivity, speech issues, depression and anxiety.
People don’t really understand these problems because they haven’t personally experienced it. A Survivor may appear to handle life well, but people don’t see the extraordinary effort it takes to make it look that way. A Survivor may be performing routine requirements of life; however, the many daily routine tasks are more challenging than anyone can imagine.
Finally, because interaction is more difficult, people interact with a Survivor less and this separation makes continued relationships strained. All this gives a justification to the difficulties of relationships. These challenges are not limited to the Survivor; family members are affected by the strain of coping with daily demands as caregivers. The personal relationships pre/post injury for each family member is affected as well.
We all desperately seek the strategy for improvement in this challenge. Like many strategies it is not perfect but offers promise and hope for the Survivor and their family.
The best approach to this common challenge is so obvious it is often overlooked and thought not relevant. Ask yourself “How do you want your life to be”? Once you know your answer, no matter how difficult, never give up, never give in and always move forward.
The following strategic steps can be applied to anyone but are specifically posed to Survivors;
Engage with life more, then slowly include more people into your activities and interactions as you heal. Realize that relationships can be extremely challenging and discouraging; that is every relationship regardless of sustaining an injury. Keep working at the relationships most important to you as you learn to cope with your own limitations.
Always have a plan for improving. Think about each bad encounter and how you could have made it better. Without a plan and desire to improve, you will remain the same no matter where you are in recovery.
Realize recovery is a process and will take many failures. Learn from the things that go wrong and always do better the next interaction you have. Write down your successes and date them. A person will find successes become more frequent when concentrated on as a daily goal. Review your successes daily. They will continue to inspire and motivate you to surpass your personal best.
“What kind of life do you want”?
Keep in mind, every choice you make during the course of the day will create the actions necessary to successfully answer that question, but nothing will be achieved without this mantra;
Never give up and never give in, xoxo