By Bill Herrin
Brain Injury Awareness Month – Find Your Tribe!!
Unexpected life change happens every day, to everyone. Some changes are good, others are just trivial events, and some are complete life-changers. TBI is most likely the all-time champion of unexpected life change. Nobody gets up in the morning knowing that TBI is going to strike, and really, nobody is ever ready for it. The term TBI is a broad term – with many different causes, including blast repercussions, falling, car accident, industrial accident, stroke, sports concussion, aneurism, and more.
Brain Injury Awareness Month
With March designated (in the USA) “Brain Injury Awareness Month” every year, it’s easy to let it slip by, although it’s been observed for the past 30+ years. Finding solace in a community, in the things that we have in common – whether happy or sad, is something that is a part of the human experience. Support groups, discussion groups, networking groups, church groups, etc. offer face-to-face contact with people we may have something in common with, and the internet can take that to a new and different level.
Social media groups and pages can offer advice, moral support, interaction, and a window to the world of others that have similar interests, problems, hobbies, beliefs, and more. The point is that social media can fill a void for people that are limited in mobility, or limited by their ability to drive a car, or just don’t feel comfortable being “out and about” after a TBI. Making online acquaintances, and even friends, can be a lifeline for someone, but there are also pitfalls to the “human experience” that includes gossip, negativity, bullying, intimidation, and other forms of negativity that can come our way in life, either “online or offline.”
Let’s Get Social
The hardest part of all of this is that you need to be a bit vulnerable to make a friend, and if a friendship goes in the wrong direction, you can get your feelings hurt, or you can chalk it up to experience and keep moving forward. TBI is similar, as you can wallow in your injury and not move forward, or you can accept that you have some things to overcome – or at least try to! When you combine the two – a TBI, along with trying to make a friend – well that’s not only uncharted territory to many, but as I always say, it’s different for everyone.
What’s The Point?
What’s the point of all of this? With Brain Injury Awareness Month here, I’m suggesting if you’re a TBI survivor, caregiver, or family member, be encouraged to know that you’re not alone. How? Well, we’re all in this together – even if it’s a family member that has a TBI. Caregivers can find respite and reinforcement from other caregivers, family members that go beyond the call of duty all day – every day – can find a circle of affirmation and positivity to help them recharge…and TBI survivors need this more than any of us. If they can feel a sense of community with other survivors – either in a support group or in a social media setting, they can find things in common with others as well.
Brain injury doesn’t necessarily bring all survivors together with a common vision for their futures, or a common way forward…but it does give all survivors the common goal of defeating their own TBI. All we can do is seek the best professional medical help available to us, and strive to do better every day. Try to find encouragement and community with people that share your challenges, and live life to the best of your ability every day!
How Should I Spend My Social Capital?
Al Condeluci & Jeffrey Fromkneckt’s book called “Social Capital: The Key To Macro Change” touches on this very subject. Here’s an excerpt that you may find inspiring:
“Just as the types of relationships that people have are different, so are the benefits and rewards associated with them. Sociologists describe three types of support that flow through one’s social network:
Instrumental support refers to the provision of tangible resources, such as a ride to the store, a place to stay or help with child care. This type of support is typically provided by those with whom one is closer and more intimate. The value reaped here is most tangible.
Emotional support includes help coping with stress and other emotional needs, such as
talking to a friend about a bad day or a problem you are facing, and are provided by individuals one is close to and trusts. This type of support has been linked to improved health and happiness outcomes for all individuals, although most of this benefit is intangible.
Lastly, informational support includes access to information and resources and can be provided by any member of one’s network, whether a close friend or someone barely known. All three types of support are important. The value of one’s social capital is the dynamic interplay of these resources.”
“Social Capital” has been studied for over 25 years and has a definite positive influence on health and happiness, resistance to illnesses, and less depression & anxiety (among other benefits).
Wrapping Up With Encouragement
Although the term “social capital” may seem a bit fuzzy in meaning, the overall gist is this – friends, family, caregivers, clinicians, and even casual acquaintances can make life a whole lot better. Work on building your social capital by not only finding friends that can help and encourage you but also by helping and encouraging them! That’s what community is all about, and the Traumatic Brain Injury Community is most likely one of the most necessary communities that could use positive reinforcement from each other!
In closing, I’ve written this short piece to encourage all of us, and to show that TBI may have brought us all under this big umbrella, but we’re all in this together.
TBI has no common language.
TBI has no borders.
TBI has no limitations.
TBI is different for everyone.
TBI can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.
TBI Survivors all over the world have one thing in common – which truly makes us a worldwide community.
Despite our differences, we should love and support each other on our respective journeys.
TBI changed us, but it’s up to us to try and change for the better after our TBI.
Start thinking of ways that you can positively impact each other during Brain Injury Awareness Month (March, USA) – and all year long! Find your tribe, and live your life!