There are approximately 1 million people living in the UK suffering from the long-term effects of a brain injury, but every brain injury is unique. The recovery time can vary from a few months to a few years, depending on the severity of the injury sustained. Some injuries result in life-altering conditions that not only affect the individual but their family and friends too.
Below is a list of 10 things to expect after a brain injury:
1) Remember that you are not on your own.
Although life post brain injury can feel so very lonely, you are not alone. Aim to join a local support group. The worst thing you can do is to isolate yourself. Meeting others will ease feelings of loneliness, and you will also learn a lot from those who have lived with your condition for some time.
2) Don’t expect too much too soon!
Don't get disheartened that you are not making the progress that you would like to. Just because someone else seems to be making a better recovery than you, know that every brain injury is unique and you will recover at a rate that is right for you.
3) Learn to take care of yourself.
Neglecting your health is guaranteed to make you feel worse; so if you want to improve your situation, then it makes sense to keep your body in top condition. Be active! If you are able, then you should aim to get regular aerobic exercise. Lifting weights (resistance exercise) is beneficial too for gaining better control of your body, but aerobic exercise should be prioritised as it transports oxygenated blood to the brain, which along with endorphins, makes you feel better.
Don't worry about not being able to run 10 miles. Start with 20-minute exercise that leaves you slightly out of breath.
4) Learn to go easy on yourself and listen to your body.
Pushing yourself is good, but pushing yourself too much, either physically or mentally, can be counterproductive to your recovery. If you feel yourself becoming exhausted, then stop and either rest or do something else.
5) Do things in bite-sized chunks.
Big tasks can seem overwhelming, but you don't have to do things in one go. Break things down into bite-sized chunks and get into a habit of completing smaller tasks.
Failing at larger task can have a negative impact on your self-esteem, hindering your recovery progress.
6) Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you have good family and friends, then ask them for help.
If you see any professional, whether it is an Occupational Therapist, Neuropsychologist, speech therapist, social worker etc. then ask them. Failing that, email the Headway helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org and someone there will respond to your query.
7) Understand that people won't understand.
Many of the symptoms of your brain injury will be hidden and, in many cases, the person with the brain injury won't look any different. Trying to explain fatigue or memory difficulties will evoke such responses as “Yeah, I get really tired too” or “Yeah, my memory is terrible, and I don't even have a brain injury!”.
You can't explain to everyone and not everyone will want to listen! You won't have as much mental stamina as you did before your injury and stress can be a huge drain on your energy reserves.
8) YOU WILL be patronised.
Very few people understand brain injury and the difficulties you have to deal with, so often the person with a brain injury can look like a regular healthy person and will be treated as such.
- “There's nothing wrong with you.”
- “Your accident was years ago, get over it!”
There are many symptoms of traumatic brain injury that only you will know about such as confusion and slower cognitive skills and abilities. It's important that you don't let this upset you, some people are just ignorant and this is not your fault, you can’t educate everyone and not everyone will want to know.
9) You are not going to be like the person you were before.
You need to accept this if you are going to move on in life. See this not as the end but as a new beginning, work on being the best person that you can be. Put your energy into being a kinder healthier happier you!
10) Learn to think positive and learn to look forward not back.
It's true that this can be very difficult at times, but positive thinking makes you a more attractive person to know; always moaning and complaining will push people away and you definitely don't want that! Becoming obsessed with what has happened to you is only going to cause you pain because you can't change that. Concentrate on what you can change like what is happening now and what is going to happen; you can make a difference to those!