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Losing your sense of who you are – or your sense of self – after a brain injury can feel devastating. So many TBI survivors ask the question, “Who am I now?” These blogs explore the meaning of sense of self and the impact of losing your identity when physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral challenges affect not only daily life but personal relationships.

You Look Good, You Sound Good by Amanda C. Nachman

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How many of us have heard these words over time since our brain injuries? I have realized that having a brain injury makes people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say. Is it because they can’t see our injury? Is it because people who care about us just want everything to be okay? It could be all of the above. I don’t know.

I look good on the outside because it was my brain, an internal organ that was damaged.

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Regaining a Sense of Self by Hilary Zayed

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Losing her sense of self may have been the most painful invisible loss after her brain injury. Hilary Zayed explores the meaning of self and the process of “reinvention” of her new self through her artwork as she rebuilt her identity and explored her future and the meaning of survival. Her new book Regaining a Sense of Self describes the process.

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From Unlucky, Unlovely, and Unlovable and Unlucky to Lucky, Resilient, and Loved by Christine Durham, PhD

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Christine Durham describes the excruciating journey of rediscovering her self after her brain injury. It starts with a piece of pie.

I found myself standing in the middle of the shopping mall with pie dripping from my hands, pie covering the front of my coat, and to my bewilderment, my daughter, Ann, who’d brought me on this shopping trip, ran away. I didn’t blame her. I’d run away from me too, if I could! I was so ashamed! I didn’t know what to do so I kept on trying to eat the pie. I’d been apprehensive about this outing to the shops, several months after I’d left the hospital after my car accident, but I hadn’t realized I’d be so totally confused and lost.

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The Near Normal after Brain Injury

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Four years ago, I survived two Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, one from a car accident in which I was broadsided while idling at a stoplight. My driver’s side and curtain airbags deployed. Contre Coup. Less than a week later, I slipped and fell on the sidewalk at work; ice disguised beneath the snow, and hit the back of my head. I coined the term, “the near normal,” instead of “the new normal,” in relationship to the way in which I function today, four years later.

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Is it a Brain Injury? by Cheryl Green

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Sometimes I forget a name. People without brain injury try to make me feel better with, “Oh, I do that too! Maybe I have a brain injury! Ha, ha!” That doesn’t make me feel better. Before my TBI, I forgot names sometimes. I just didn’t forget my own family members’ names and call them “Um, Excuse Me.”

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Healing Your Heart After a Brain Injury

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Winter can be a tough season for anyone but it can be exceptionally distressing for brain injury survivors. On top of struggling with the typical “winter blues”, brain injury survivors are struggling with a fundamental life crisis. Who am I and what is my value if I can’t do what I used to do, if my friends aren’t my friends anymore and I am a problem for my family?

Something you may not realize is that there is commonly a grieving process associated with healing from a brain injury. You have lost much of your “sense of self”. You don’t know how much you will get back and you may not know for a long time. There are often secondary losses as well – jobs, income, homes, friends, even family. These changes and losses all have a profound effect on a survivor, as well as their family and friends.

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Embracing Your New Self after Brain Injury

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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.

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No Two Paths are Alike by David Grant

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My Fate has lead me down a path where I do have a very unique insight into the realm of brain injury that only comes from living it. If you add together every bit of knowledge I’ve gleaned from the books I read, the websites I’ve poured through, the doctors I’ve talked to, the summation of all of that “outside information” is only a speck of dust compared to what I’ve learned firsthand by actually living daily with a brain injury.

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Sense of Self after Brain Injury

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Not only did your life change after your brain injury, but your sense of self changes as well. What is this “sense of self” that everyone is talking about? It is that knowledge of what kind of person you are, how you feel and act, how you have developed over time, the roles you fill and the roles you play. Rather than seeing this change solely as a loss, your changing sense of self after a brain injury is an opportunity to design yourself all over again.

One thing that contributes to a positive sense of self is a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s learning to tie your shoes again or to learn a new language after your brain injury, it’s a lot of work but you will get better at it over time – and that is an accomplishment!

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Restoring Confidence after Brain Injury

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The other day I was writing about confidence after we suffer a loss. It sparked me to look at all the ways in which one’s confidence can be shattered. Events such as the death of a loved one, infidelity, divorce, relationship changes, a job loss, financial disaster and compromised health all came to mind. I was also reminded of the many individuals where a lack of confidence became a problem after they suffered a brain injury.

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