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The importance of mental and physical wellbeing after a brain injury


A brain injury is life-changing, no matter how strong your recovery is. If nothing else, you have a new perspective on life. For me, material things are not important, but moments with people who make you feel valued are priceless. I thought I was like this anyway before my accident seeing as I didn't feel the need always to rush out and buy the latest phone, or do something just because everyone else thought it was "cool". But following my accident, I think this perspective intensified. Knowing that you have had a close shave, and then being left struggling with things that it had never occurred to you that you might one day, can have that effect on you.

Whilst I think this makes us more "down to earth", it doesn't instantly make us happier. Often, we believe that materialism only leaves people wanting and forever trying to fill some unfulfilled hole deep inside them. This suggests that conversely, those who value the simple things must be full of positivity. Well, it doesn't exactly work like that.

You see, it depends on what we focus on

Are we just looking at the things we have to be grateful for or are the things that are ominous by their absence distracting us too much? This could be where loneliness has been chipping away at our self-confidence now that we don't see our friends as much as we used to. And then that allows our inner critic to take centre stage and demolish our self-esteem. That's why it hurts when we are told "you should consider yourself lucky; it could have been so much worse." People who say this are trying to be helpful, and actually what they mean is they are thankful that you're still here. But when you're dealing with emotional pain, this just feels like you're not being listened to, and your feelings are being minimalised.

There is no right or wrong answer about how you should feel when thinking about your life

Naturally, your loved ones want you to be happy, but it doesn't mean you're wrong if that's not the case. Any life-changing event can leave us questioning if we are good enough, or are we doing the right thing. Having these questions and doubts isn't a bad thing; it's the start of being able to develop ourselves. Every invention started with someone asking the question, "how can I make this better/easier/simpler?"

The next step is trying to figure out what needs to change, rather than just what we THINK is the problem

The best example I have for this is when we find ourselves trapped in the thoughts where we assume what others are thinking of us. An expression on someone's face can be read as something to do with what they are thinking about us, when in fact they might be thinking about something else entirely. If we assume they don't like us or have some kind of problem with us, we feel powerless to improve the situation. But if we only work with evidence, like HAVE they told us they have a problem, we can quickly feel better. If they haven't said there's a problem, then we can go back to feeling comfortable. If they have expressed something, we can try to work it through with them, or just walk away.

Mental health needs to be given the same priority as our physical health

When people think about our recovery from a brain injury it's often our physical state that they focus on first: are we mobile, can we talk etc. But as depression and anxiety affect the majority of survivors, this needs attention too. Yes, medications such as anti-depressants can help, but it's more widely recognised now that there are other tools which can help people. Often talking therapies used alongside medications can be pretty successful. Support groups are a great place to start because you can talk it through with others who have similar experiences and can relate to you. Also, counsellors can help you work through specific issues which are holding you back.

If you're not yet ready to talk about it, I understand. I was like that for a long-time too, and I found myself searching for things that would help me to work it out (or at least part of it) by myself. Thankfully I did find what I needed and then had support via counselling and anti-depressants to help me get to where I am now. But if you want just to have some time to work through it by yourself, for now, I do have a course which can help you to do that. Brain injury: surviving to thriving in 6 weeks is to help you focus on the things that are important to you, and silence that inner critic. Plus, it's a video course, so you don't have to open up to a bunch of strangers. You can just go through it at your own pace and decide when you are ready for the next step in your recovery. Just remember, there is no right or wrong answer about how to deal with this, we are all different, and you must do what is right for you.

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