Embracing Your “New Self” after Brain Injury
by Amanda Nachman
What does embracing your new self mean?
Towards the beginning of my MTBI, I was told I would be fine in a week, a month, three months, a year, three to five years, maybe never. I was told to focus on getting back to my old self, let go of my old self, adjust to my new way of life, and embrace the new me. With so many inconsistencies, I wasn’t sure what to do, I fought acceptance, but I never gave up hope. I finally came to a point where I stopped fighting to get back to living just the way I had been before.
First of all, I couldn’t remember what I was exactly like before. I knew I was a teacher, but my personality, the way I spoke, many events, I just don’t remember. Some things I’ve been told are the same, others things a bit different. How do you get back to something you can’t exactly remember? Secondly, I wanted to do the things I did before, but I couldn’t. It was not from lack of trying that I discovered this. I tried to return to teaching, twice. It didn’t work either time. I could no longer keep up my high energy pace I once had, lights and sounds bothered me, crowds bothered me, and any kind of organizing tasks became extremely challenging and exhausting. These things are still challenges I face almost two years later.
I had two choices. I could spiral completely into a life of depression and feeling sorry for my self, or I could learn how to reinvent my self by finding joy in something new. My children, husband, and family brought/bring me great happiness, but I needed something internal. The first step to this was joining a brain injury support group for professional women. I was no longer unusual, but among other highly educated women who were experiencing the same symptoms as me. We spent many sessions talking about what our new selves can do, and can’t do. We have discussed resources, and ways to help ourselves, and our caregivers. We have brought humor and understanding to one another’s lives as insiders in a world of outsiders. Not only has this group taught me that it’s not giving up, by accepting your new strengths and weaknesses, but that we are not “Brain Injured Women” we are women who have had brain injuries. Just changing the sequence of the wording, we become individuals rather than victims. I highly recommend finding a support group that fits for you. The value of this kind of support is priceless. With this newfound support from “others like me”, I began writing, refinishing furniture, and got creative with my finances. My internal joy came back, and along with that came an increase in confidence, and love for the new me.
About the Author
Amanda Nachman was an elementary schoolteacher for fifteen years prior to her mild traumatic brain injury in 2011. She is still working on her recovery, and writing to share her story to get the word out that not only athletes and soldiers are dealing with this invisible disability, but people we come across every day can be affected by the impact concussions can have on us. She is hoping she can help change the way the medical field responds to others who find themselves in a similar situation.