Hold onto hope after brain injury
Hope after brain injury is too easily lost. When you’re surviving a brain injury, you need the fight mechanism in your brain. I found that out because I was watching this TV show called brain games. It’s a really interesting show that tells you how the brain works. And the fight mechanism in my brain was where I imagined the worst possible outcome and I figured out how I could avoid that. Like when I was in the wheelchair, I hated that feeling of being helpless and depending on someone else to get me from point A to point B. I also know that sometimes that’s something you can’t avoid. Just that feeling I was so afraid of happening made me do everything I could do to avoid it. That made me want to persevere through all those challenging times. It was so difficult at times that I actually thought about quitting, but then I thought about what would happen if I did just stop putting so much effort in getting better.
Surviving and persevering through the unthinkable as a survivor of brain injury
Then I realize that if I don’t go through this hard time, there really wouldn’t be any hope in getting any better. Only you can push yourself to do the unthinkable.
If you have the fight mechanism in your brain – to me that just means you think the worst and then you freak yourself out to the point where you’re so freaked out that you will do anything to make sure that nightmare doesn’t come true. If you have the freeze mechanism, that just means you don’t do anything. If you have the flight mechanism, you just avoid it all together. At lease that’s my version of it. I didn’t do any research on it but that’s what I took from the examples on the show.
Take my example of how I learned to go to the bathroom again. I did not like how those diapers felt. I wanted to be independent, so my mom had this brilliant idea to start a point system. Every time I went to the bathroom on the toilet, I got a point and if I got so many points I got a toy. But since I couldn’t talk yet, I learned sign language. I did a sign language B when I had to go to the bathroom. But the really funny thing was every time my aunt Shana would visit me in the hospital I would poop a lot.
Realizing all the challenges that you are about to face after you are a survivor of TBI…can you still have hope?
When I first woke up after the coma, what could I still do? Could I talk, could I walk, could I eat, could I drink, could I breathe, could I even go to the bathroom? You know all the things we take for granted. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I couldn’t physically do all those things. It was so frustrating that I just wanted to pull my hair out and scream.
Survivors always need to know someone cares and is there for you after a brain injury or TBI
It definitely took a toll on my mom. She was my rock, someone who didn’t take it easy on me who always pushed me that extra mile and made sure I knew I could do it. I do admit at times it was really frustrating, but overall it was really helpful. She didn’t let me get down on myself and use my brain injury as an excuse. Sometimes it’s a real excuse but what she didn’t let me get away with was just being lazy and not putting a 100% effort into getting better.
I got mad, even furious, and had a lot of arguments with her and some total meltdowns. But at the end of the day, I knew she only had my best interest in mind. Which made me mad because I should know myself better than my mom. But at that time, I was doing everything to get back to a normal state so I wouldn’t get judged as much and I was just getting the full function of my brain back.
Is hope even possible when everyone says I can’t because I had a brain injury?
The answer is yes. Everyone told me I’ll never do anything I’m doing now. So it all comes down to… are you a fighter or a giver upper? I think everyone should be a fighter because you never know how much you can accomplish until you’re in that predicament. Like with me, I never knew how defiant I was because at first I was just trying to figure everything out. I was trying to understand everything everyone was saying, but at the same time trying to figure out why I couldn’t talk.
I remember hearing my mom talk me up like telling them my daughter can/will walk again, talk again, she’ll even be successful in public school – she was my own personal cheerleader. I love this cheerleader, Ha-ha, but we did fight and butt heads most of the time, yes we definitely did. But I’m so glad she was hard on me because looking back, if she had let me take it easy and let me go at my own pace, there’s no way I would be as strong as I am today. I owe that all to my awesome mom.
Warning, warning, don’t let me fool you – I can be a bullhead…
My mom knows if I’m not challenged I get bored, and when I get bored, I get mad and frustrated and just want to do my own thing. I was always like that though even before my car accident. So the point I’m trying to make is just because your loved one has a brain injury now… that doesn’t completely change who they are.
That was the most frustrating part when everyone treated me completely differently, but yet I was the same softball super star that takes no crap from anyone kind of girl. When anyone said I couldn’t do something, I would say in my head (because I couldn’t talk yet) – “I won’t tell you I can. I’ll just have to show you that I can and I will. It might take me a little longer but I can/will prove you wrong.
So my advice to anyone who is going through something like that is, you can only help them if they want to get better. There will be plenty of times when they’ll get down on themselves and you’ll have to bring them up. They’ll be furious at you and they’ll try to bring you down. I did that plenty more than I could count to my poor mom, but man, she’s a very strong woman. I’m so glad to be able to call her mom because without her, there’s absolutely no way I would have been as strong willed as I am today.