Breaking the ceiling of shyness to be sociable after brain injury

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As a child I was painfully shy. But as a met good friends I knew I didn’t want it to hold me back for the rest of my life. They showed me that good people can appreciate you, despite your flaws. You just have to let them experience who you are. You need to try to be sociable. So although this brain injury has shuffled my deck of cards, I’m trying again.

I built a career on being sociable.

I was never going to be outgoing enough to be a holiday rep for a 18-30 club experience, but I wasn’t bad with people. Having learned the ropes with the toughest audience, the general public, during my 10 years in retail. I went from serving customers and squeaking the total price, to confidently traffic stopping people for a make over and selling them products they hadn’t ever tried before.

From there I moved into positions where business development was a big part of the role. Engaging with decision makers in businesses, even when they said they didn’t have the time to talk.  By not being aggressive, instead sociable and approachable, I was able to win them over. They bought into me.

Trying to be sociable again after my brain injury.

How my brain injury robbed me of that.

I didn’t know who I was anymore when my brain injury happened. I knew my name and history, but I didn’t recognise my personality. As I regained some insight, I was able to see how odd my behaviour was at times, but couldn’t stop it.

Suddenly there was so much about me I didn’t like. Not being able to trust myself to be “normal”, made me retract from the world. It became lonely, and I found I was assuming the world thought the worst of me.

But my friends proved me wrong and I’m trying again.

I started getting in touch with those old school friends who I hadn’t seen in years. They had already seen me, warts and all, growing up so I didn’t feel I had anything to hide. And again they showed me the same life lessen they taught me all those years ago. They didn’t care about my faults, they were more interested in who I am.

So I’ve put myself back in training. (No I haven’t enrolled on a course, I just have to impress the harshest examiner, me.) Random acts of kindness, win people over the fastest, and often stay with them for a lifetime. Whilst I’m not giving away money to change peoples lives, I am offering my compliments.

I was in a queue (or as my American friends would say, a line) in a coffee shop. The lady ahead of me had incredible nails. Expertly painted bright colours with glitter over the top. These days I don’t do anything with my nails, but I admired how lovingly they were done. Then it occurred to me that as these nails made a statement, she must be proud of them.

Learning to be sociable again after brain injury

So just as her coffee was being served I said, “By the way, I love your nails.”  She was a little surprised, but replied with “Oh thanks, they need redoing really, but I do them myself and I just haven’t had time.” As us Brits struggle to take compliments, and feel the need to be very modest about everything, this was a positive response.  I’m sure she would have gone away feeling pleased that someone had admired her handy work. (See what I did there?!)

This is just the start.

I know we didn’t get into a deep and meaningful conversation. But I would like to think by me trying to be sociable, I gave her something to smile about.  My aim is to prove to myself that strangers don’t notice or care about my brain injury. They care about the impact this person makes on them in that moment in time. So I want to try to make it a positive one where ever I can.

Other articles you may like:

Do you find it hard to be sociable after your brain injury? Or have you got tips on how to overcome it?

Small steps towards being sociable again after brain injury.

 

 

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5 Replies to “Breaking the ceiling of shyness to be sociable after brain injury”

  1. Yes, I am finding it very hard to be sociable again. I am really struggling with environmental situations, my brain goes into panic mode, I only have a few friends now that I trust, I feel so vulnerable with this brain injury.
    Yet part of me so wants to get out and not to be afraid. I have to carefully plan everything, say I was going out for a meal or coffee, I need to know the place where I go, limit the time, sit near natural light/ a window, not fluorescent lighting or candles, sit away from a speaker (why do we need music playing all the time anyway?) I have to sit away from others, conversations going on behind me or the side of me is too much. It needs to be cool, ( so dress in layers), no more than 4 people at a time. I have to feel comfortable, well rested. If any of things are not thought about, it’s brain overload and I can’t process what’s going on.
    I can’t choose what to eat, drink or have conversation. My brain is totally overwhelmed, then fatigue comes, my speech slurs, I lose words and my right side goes to sleep, it’s like wearing concrete boots, then panic hits and I cry.
    Maybe that’s why my friends have disappeared?
    Some days I can be surprised and have a good time, then I see a glimpse of what could be.
    I was a very sociable person before the brain tumour and surgery. I loved party’s, loved talking to people, always would start a conversation with a stranger, even did public speaking. For my job I would stand at the front of the classroom and sign for the deaf, lead school assembly and interpret in school meetings. Now I am finding it very hard to adapt to this lack of confidence and my dysfunctional communication skills.
    I keep trying the uncomfortable and hope with time I improve and being socialable will not be as distressing. I am glad for the friends who have stuck by me and understand, who keep asking me to go out, and treat me normal. But for now I would advise, start with 1 person and go to a quiet place you are familiar with, don’t just go to a party and think you will be ok, there will be far too much sensory overload. Don’t face a tv screen or sit under a speaker, that’s one less thing to filter out. Dress well, something you feel good in, then you go out already confident. And limit your time, then you don’t get caught out with fatigue. Hopefully in time your brain will be able to cope to more stimuli and you get to all the party’s and music concerts again. Be brave!

    1. Sound advice there Jo. I do wish there didn’t have to be music everywhere as well. Or at least keep it to background level, instead of in your face!
      I don’t think I’m going to turn into a party animal, but I’m just hoping to feel less of a marginal human being that the world passes by.

      1. Me too, feels like I don’t fit in anymore, people can just embrace life and have no idea, how much it takes to do anything and how much it takes out of you. Good job you’ve set up this blog Michelle, we don’t feel as alone and can gainsime much help from you and others.

  2. I find I have made friends with the people I pay for services. Like my chiropractor. I’ve been seeing her since before my disability, 12 years. She is always surprised by my quick wit. And states I don’t have a brain injury. But we can’t be friends outside her being my chiropractor. Cheers,H

    1. That’s brilliant that you have been able to work together for so long. She must really understand you as a client and a person 🙂

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