I was in denial about my brain injury for ages, even years, in fact! I’m not sure that I fully understood what had happened to me until three years after I was discharged from the hospital. That is not necessarily a long time or a short time to be unaware of my brain injury. Some people will gain awareness faster, for some it will take longer, and some will sadly, never gain awareness of their situation because everyone is unique.
If you had asked me at any point during the three years post-injury what had happened to me, I would have been able to tell you that I had been hit by a car and sustained a traumatic brain injury. I think that I was just saying the words though, without any real understanding of their significance. I became very good at acting like I was OK and giving the impression that I was handling things very well. I enjoyed the praise and I liked hearing others say how well I was coping. Everyone likes having their ego massaged and being told they are doing well. I would tell people that I would defy any doctors and would be working or studying full-time again next year. Reality check: I have only just started working part-time 12 years later and I have found such a change to my routine to be challenging!
I made such decisions when I was having a good day, when I felt good I would forget how I felt the day before and the majority of the days in months previous. In fact, every time I had a good day, I would think that I was cured! I would get excited and make plans on how I was going to do all the things that I hadn’t been able to for so long. This boom of excitement about finally being rid of my fatigue ironically drained my energy, ensuring that the next day my energy level went bust. My lack of insight about how to cope with my memory problems meant that this situation happened again and again. You never know what somebody is thinking and although someone with a brain injury might say that they understand something, it is no guarantee that they do, even if they think that is the case. I don’t think I was ever aware that I was in denial. I genuinely thought that there was nothing wrong with me. Nor was there a sudden moment in which it all became clear. I think my opinion changed gradually over time.
Recovery from my head injury has been long and it has been slow; it has been a marathon, not a sprint. It has often been the case that others could see what I couldn’t. For example, I was adamant that I could leave the hospital and catch a bus into town, but everyone else could see that I was in denial. That was 12 years ago. Of course, I know they were right but there is a tiny little bit of me that still thinks that I could!