Starting a blog following a brain injury is difficult, but it is achievable.

How I started my blog after a brain injury

Most of you will know that my motivation for starting this blog, was to raise awareness of brain injury. Based on my own dismal understanding of it before my car accident, I figured it’s likely that the majority of people are the same. As I explained in Trying to understand what’s wrong , blogging was the only way I could think of being able to get my message out there. I knew that with time and effort, it is possible to find an audience. The problem was I had no experience. I understood how to use keywords to search for what I want on the internet. But I didn’t have a clue how to set up a website.

I even had to take short cuts in my research.

Even though I was planning on doing this with no support, I decided I was definitely going to do it. My brain injury made me have rigid thinking, so once I set my mind on it, there was no going back. My starting point was to find what other bloggers recommended.

There are so many options out there, and I didn’t have the concentration to delve into it. What I did learn quite quickly was that if you go for a free site, only do it as a hobby. The reason is that as you aren’t paying for the domain name, the host can sell the name to someone else at any point. If it is just a short term thing you want to do, that’s fine. But knew I didn’t want to one day type in my web address and find another persons site open up in it’s place. For more details on Free vs Paid, Should I choose a Free or a self-hosted blogging platform? does a great job at outlining it for you.

Next it seemed the WordPress program was the most widely used for blogging. It you want to see a list of all the options, with their pro’s and con’s How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform in 2017 (Compared) does a great job at doing this. Again as I didn’t have the ability to complete my research from scratch, I decided I would go with the people vote. And the most recommended host site was Bluehost. As I knew nothing about how to do this, I needed a platform that would make it as easy and idiot proof as possible. But this isn’t an advert for Bluehost. Yes I paid good money so I could have a better chance of starting on the right foot.

If I can write a blog following my brain injury, so can you

A brain injury can make learning new things more challenging.

There were lots of terms I didn’t understand, it was like learning a new language.  But I had time on my side, so just kept plugging away. Initially i just used images I found on Google and added text to them. But even if your blog isn’t generating money, you can be sued if you aren’t licensed to use that image. However it turns out there are some sites that have images you can use for free. I like Pixabay because it also is happy for you to alter the images.

As I write to support other brain injury survivors, I had to try to reach my audience. Facebook groups have been the best approach for me so far. Mostly because as they are support groups, their members want to talk about living post brain injury. But I know there’s many others out there. I’m still trying to work out how to reach those who favour other social media platforms.

Other than Facebook, I was a complete beginner when it comes to social media platforms. I had never sent a tweet, or even understood why people followed complete strangers. But that’s where my blog has taught me something new. There’s lots of amazing people out there, it’s amazing what you can learn from them.  I have been lucky enough to receive a warm welcome from some wonderful people. I didn’t know them before, but they still offer me so much, through useful suggestions, and their open hearts.

Starting a blog after brain injury
Just be prepared for others might not see the value of your blog, and occasionally express it.
If starting a blog something you really want to do, you can make it happen.

Whether you want to write it for your own therapy, or you want to make an impact, there are options out there for you. Yes it’s confusing, so be patient with yourself, and be prepared for the fact that you are always learning. Unlike a book for is no ending with a blog, only how long your commitment lasts.

Have you been thinking of starting a blog, or have you already had one? Is there anything you wish you had known before you started?

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Master the act of ditching the hurtful but inconsequential things. Battle of brain injury survivor.

So I have a brain injury, that doesn't give you the right to throw hurtful comments at me.

As humans we are so diverse and that’s what makes the world so interesting. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all the same. Whilst we will have some things in common with another person, we still have different strengths and views. But that can lead to us to making some hurtful actions or remarks when we disagree. It doesn’t have to be like that, and often the person doesn’t mean any offence. In my previous post Dodge behaviour related misunderstandings provoked by brain injury. Tips from a survivor , I talked about how others might take offence from our behaviour. So today I thought how it feels when the boot is on the other foot.

We all can say something unkind at times, and usually people just brush it off. But my brain injury makes me more sensitive and less resilient.

Don’t get me wrong, I realise how easy it is to put your foot in it. Recently I was trying to pay a friend a compliment when it backfired. She’d posted on her social media about how she was about to start in a new role she had been promoted to. Knowing her well, and the journey she had been on, I knew what an achievement this was, more than most.  There was a time that she seriously considered resigning because she was going through a tough patch. To recognise her determination and tenaciousness, I wrote that she  was a true “British Bulldog” for how she turned her situation around.

I thought I was showing her my support, but it was misread as an insult. My friend and many who read my comment, thought I was calling her a “dog”. It’s not a term I would ever use, so it didn’t enter my head that it could be seen as hurtful. Once we talked about it and I explained I took it for granted “Bulldog determination” was a well known saying. Therefore I assumed the good intention would be understood.  I was genuinely mortified that they took it the wrong way.

We smoothed it over and moved on, but I’m still reeling from it really. I’ve run over it so many times. I’m angry at myself for making a stupid assumption. And I hate the idea of people I don’t know but she does, thinking I was taking a swipe at her when I meant the opposite.

I need to stop thinking about hurtful comments. I need to focus on dealing with this brain injury.

Sometimes the faceless world of the internet makes hurtful comments stick faster.

As a blogger I am a fan of the wonderful resources and opportunities the internet gives us. But, as with everything, it does have some less admirable elements too. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me if they have kindly taken the time to read my articles. However I’m still surprised now some people react.

I’ve had some people take aim at me for grammar errors. Believe me, I do try to make things easy to read, it’s not that I don’t care. There are times some people pass judgement before reading the article. And that’s their right to do so. When you open up your thoughts in this way, not everyone wants to hear them. (I feel the same way about reality celebrities, although I hope that’s not the way people see me.) But if you don’t want to know what I’m saying, just leave it there. I’m not forcing anyone to read, them. It’s fine to have a different point of view that you want to raise. But don’t just take me down because me need someone to aim at.

I even had a troll for a while.

They say you haven’t made it until you have a troll. This person would send me messages telling me how awful I am, and that no one cares or will help me. They didn’t even explain what I had done to upset them. Each hurtful message was sent more than once to try to ensure I saw them.

I so wanted to retaliate, but I read the best way to deal with them is ignore them. That way like a petulant child they will get bored and look for a new target.  My site has filters on it which do a good job of stopping spam and nasty comments making it into my site. I can check them like you can look at your junk email folder, but unless I OK them, they don’t get published. That meant they didn’t get any attention from me or my other readers.

Luckily, it worked and they gave up. But I was left feeling like I’d been on an unfair trial, not knowing the charges or being able to defend myself. But I hate the idea that they got away with it. Typical bully behaviour, being a coward they don’t have to face their victim or any consequences. Worse they are free to subject someone else to their mindless acts. (If you want to learn more about Trolls and how to deal with them, I found How to Deal with Trolls on Social Media useful.)

Hurtful comments can get to you. But we must brush ourselves down and move on. If we can fight a brain injury, we can take a thoughtless slight.

Putting it to one side doesn’t mean I don’t care, just that I won’t focus on it anymore.

We all have our right to have an express our opinions. I have to toughen up. If I was to take all differences of opinion to heart, it wouldn’t end well for me. When you have a brain injury you have a big enough battle on your hands as it is. So I need to get better at just letting things go.

Do you find you can brush off hurtful comments? Are you better or worse at this since your brain injury?

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Dodge behaviour related misunderstandings provoked by brain injury. Tips from a survivor.

Changed behaviours after brain injury can be testing for relationships

As I write about my experience of brain injury a lot, you might be surprised when I say sometimes I can’t explain how I feel. There are times this invisible heavy cloak descends on me. I’m trying to get on with a “normal” life whilst the cloak drags me down and wears me out. But the casual observer knows nothing of the cloak, just that my behaviour is different. Weirdly I have no motivation to even try to communicate. It’s just too much of an effort. I imagine when this happens I have more in common with an overworked Donkey, than a woman in the prime of her life.

As I appear grumpy, others think I’m annoyed at them.

We’ve all experienced that person who makes you feel like you can’t do anything right. You feel like you should be apologising for everything. Or making special efforts to win them over. Well, the cloak turns me into that person. It’s not intentional. I’m not really criticising everything, but I’m not showing any enthusiasm either. My brain injury just turns off the communication switch for a while. I still have emotions, I just can’t express them.

Brain injury can change your behaviour, but others may struggle to understand why

As this behaviour doesn’t give them anything to work with, I understand how it makes them insecure. Particularly since females are known for going quiet when they are angry. My partner, James, will ask if he has upset me with a tone similar to a child who thinks they have disappointed their parent. Even when I tell him to ignore my behaviour he seems unsettled. Perhaps he thinks that is just an excuse so I don’t have to explain what’s wrong?

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know by now James is my rock. And yes I am guilty of sometimes being a battleaxe just because his socks aren’t in the laundry basket. But when my brain injury cloak is on me, my behaviour is nothing to do with anything he has or hasn’t done. So the thought that I am unintentionally chipping away at his confidence is awful. I don’t want to make him question himself when he is completely innocent. In fact I don’t know where I would be without him.

My tips on dealing with this situation.

My not an expert or a counsellor, all I can tell you is how I’m dealing with this. It has taken me time to get to this point. So if highlighting this helps smooth another persons relationship, it’s worth it.

  • Acknowledge that it happens. Just because I don’t mean to make James question himself, it doesn’t mean it’s OK. I didn’t recognise it before as I didn’t have the ability to. But now I do, just ignoring it won’t solve anything.
  • Talk about it when you can. Even if it’s days later, I find a moment that it good for both of us to run through what happened. James is very understanding, which makes it easier. But even if the person in your life struggles to put themselves in your shoes, it’s important they see you making the effort. Most people will find it touching and sincere, which will help them see your bond isn’t broken.
  • Have a signal. Now I have described this as the heavy cloak feeling in this way, that’s all I need to say in the future. Then he will know that I can’t go into detail during that moment, but he doesn’t need to worry. But you can make a single where you don’t even have to say anything. It could be a long squeeze of their hand, a kiss on the tip of their nose (as long as they don’t have a cold at the time) or just a simple knowing nod.

Different behaviour from brain injury can cause problems

I sometimes am guilty of thinking that as he knows I have a brain injury, he should have got used to my behaviour by now. But that’s absolving myself of responsibility for how my actions effect him, which isn’t fair. Yes it’s true that I can’t help my bad days, but he isn’t to blame for them either. So he shouldn’t feel like he has to tiptoe around his home in hope I won’t use him as a punching bag. (Just to be clear, I’m not violent I just mean verbally.) I’ve said it before in Support carers, but it’s important we don’t forget they are in this boat too, even though none of us planned this.

How has your behaviour changed since your brain injury? Does my “heavy cloak” feeling sound familiar to you?

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Exhausted energy levels. Brain injury can leave you high & dry.

When the brain injury leaves you exhausted

When I know I have something particular happening the next day I plan ahead. I make sure I get plenty of sleep that night, and have everything organised. This always used to work for me before. It meant I would be ready with my “A game” and be on top form. Naturally I still needed a good cup of tea to help me on my way. But soon I’d be on my marks, primed for the off. However my brain injury turned all that on it’s head, leaving me exhausted.

Fatigue isn’t something you can just snap out of.

I was going to the National Pet Show. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen some pictures I was tweeting of Dexter, my Bengal. They said they were going to display visitors pet photos, so I wanted my little hero up there. But they did nothing of the sort, I was duped into advertising for them. However it demonstrated my excitement. I had been the previous year to the event in Birmingham, and had an amazing time. This year I was going to London, as it’s more local for me. And I imagined everything is always better in the capital, so this would be a show stopper.

But from the moment I woke up I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. I don’t have an explanation for why, only that my brain injury has a mind of it’s own. My partner James spotted it immediately and kept suggesting maybe we shouldn’t go. But I had been looking forward to this for ages. The brain injury wasn’t going to beat me this time.

How a brain injury can leave you exhausted

Travelling when you’re exhausted is a nightmare.

We drove to a tube station where at the weekend there is free parking near by. Even on this leg of the journey I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I couldn’t hold a conversation as that took brain power I just didn’t have. James was chauffeur, but still noticed I was spent. But I ploughed on and we began the tube journey the to Excel centre.

As the London underground is quieter at the weekend than it is during the week I was coping. But I felt like I was existing instead of living. It went down hill when we changed at Canning Town to get the Docklands Light Railway or DLR. (The DLR is still part of the underground, except it’s overground without being “The Overground line”. Confused?)

These trains are one long beast. The carriages are joined by sections which can twist and turn with the track, whilst allowing it to be wall free between the carriages. This part of the journey was the busiest, as the Excel centre always gets good attendance when it holds events.

So as we tried to find a space, we found ourselves standing in one these connecting sections. But I didn’t notice I had one foot in the carriage, and one on the twisting floor. I stood, hanging on to a hanging strap for standing passengers. Next to me was some guy who smelt like he hadn’t had a wash for a week. As he too was hanging on a strap, but was taller than me, my nose was almost in one of the offending armpits. The odour was over powering that even when the train started moving, I still couldn’t sense my legs were moving in different directions.  I was thrown all over the place. I survived, but if I hadn’t been so exhausted I don’t think I would have made this error. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Adrenaline is like making a pact with the devil.

Once inside I loaded up on coffee. And the excitement of seeing the amazing creatures got my adrenaline going. Soon I was more like me, and was pleased I’d come. Although I would say in my opinion Birmingham did it better than London. They created a better environment and atmosphere, but the birds and animals were what I came for.

But whilst adrenaline gives a welcome boost, it comes at a price. Days after the event I’m still exhausted. All it means is you have energy up front, but like a loan shark it makes you pay with interest. You pay for it many times over.

I might be exhausted, but this brain injury won't beat me

So should I have continued, or stayed at home and rest? Life is for living, and whilst I’m feeling down and out now, you have to make to most of things. Life is too short to just live in the safe, boring zone forever. Just be prepared for a prolonged visit to the safe, boring zone after the excitement is over.

To find out more about how adrenaline can affect you, read Stress has a big impact on brain injury

If you know your brain injury will leave you exhausted do you give fun things a miss?

 

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Do I tick the disabled box or not? Brain injury is more complicated than that.

How does the disabled box help when you have a brain injury?

These days there’s a form  for everything. Some ask open questions and leave a section for you to write in an answer. Others it’s just a tick box exercise. The latter is probably more to make data entry easier, rather than to assist the person completing the form. And then it asks if you are disabled. But doesn’t clarify what counts, why it needs to know, or how being defined as such will help. I understand that because here in the UK we have the Disability Discrimination Act, it is to highlight the individual to avoid discrimination. But unless you know in what way someone is disabled, how do you assist them? I don’t think a brain injury fits into this exercise easily.

My suspicion of such forms.

OK hands up, I know I’m over reacting. But here’s why: Some of you will know my Mum was Irish. She always felt forms asking about ethnicity were discriminatory, if they asked specifically if you are Irish. Previously I wrote in Agony of cognitive tailspin after brain injury about how Mum was proud to be Irish. She was acutely aware of how the rocky historic relationship between Great Britain and sectors of the Republic of Ireland, coloured some peoples view. So she questioned why they had sections for both Irish and European. As the Republic of Ireland are in the EU, Irish citizens could just tick European.

Mum was suspicious of being badly labelled because of the activities of the IRA. Most likely she was over imaginative, but no form should intimidate you this way.  She was trying to understand why they needed to know when an individual is from that specific island. And I find myself now doing the same with the disability box.

Questioning the disabled boxes use is you have a brain injury

I’m not registered disabled, because you can’t.

Most people think the easy answer to this is, only tick “yes” if you are registered disabled.  But there is no such thing anymore. There are some Government benefits you might be entitled to, but if you don’t qualify there is no other database you can be registered on. This was a result of the Disability Discrimination Act coming into force in 1995. That was when the country started to realise that as disability doesn’t have to be physical, so dropped the register.

If students have conditions such as dyslexia, it’s important they inform the school or college. This is because in exams they will be given extra time. It’s important because the student may have the right answers, but needs extra time to be able to process the question and submit an answer. So it’s not enough to tick the disability box in this example, they need to know how to support them. Otherwise if the school provided a ramp for wheelchairs, but not extra time, the box did not prevent discrimination.

The term is very broad so I’m not sure how it helps.

If the box might not prevent me from being discriminated against, why would I want this label? I have enough pointless labels as it is, thanks very much. In Living with invisible disability caused by brain injury I was pointing out how there are times I wish the public knew they needed to cut me some slack. I meant things like don’t shove past me when you’re in a hurry, as my weak leg and poor balance might make me fall over. I don’t mean I want a neon light flashing over my head saying “Give this one a wide berth as it’s faulty.”

Does ticking the disabled box when you have a brain injury ever help?

I’m sure there a hoards of people who disagree with me and find the disability box very useful. But recently I was at an appointment with a new therapist, and I asked it the box meant things like blind, deaf etc. Having told her I had a brain injury she asked if I was registered disabled. As I’m not (at this point I didn’t know that this is defunct) she said I should leave it. However, by the end of the session, having learned more about me she decided to reverse that decision. So there are probably a huge proportion of people who don’t tick the box, when in fact they should. But if there isn’t going to be an explanation of how you qualify in a tangible way, or what the use of this information is, it’s as much use as a chocolate tea pot.

Do you find being classed as disabled on paper assists you? I’m not sure a brain injury would ever not qualify, but have professionals ever argued this with you?

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My brain injury doesn’t mean you fool me, admit it you’re wrong this time

A brain injury does not make a fool

You don’t have to have a brain injury to have memory problems. But when you can’t trust your memory, often you find yourself apologising for it. Maybe it’s someones name you can’t put your finger on. Or it turns out you have already told that person a million times the story you’re imparting with relish. None of which means you’re a fool, but I’m sure I’ve been mistaken for one before now.

Humans have a predisposition for making assumptions.

We learn through repetition. Take an Orange for example: You enjoy the sweet citrus favour and it’s texture as each segment gently pops as you bite it. But imagine you have never seen or heard of one before. You pick a ripe one from an orange tree. You go to take a bite. Immediately you are other-come by the bitter flavour of the peel, and the chewy, spongy texture of the pith. That experience might lead you to think it’s not good for you, let alone it tastes awful.

But as most of us have been shown by a parent or guardian how to peel the Orange first, we can sample it’s goodness without the peel taking the first punch. But does that mean we have to peel all fruit for the same reason? No of course not, but you might forgive an alien for being confused. That’s how assumptions happen, but what I’m trying to say is, it’s natural and forgivable.

Having a brai injury doesn't make you a fool

Therefore I can understand how if a person knows the other person has a memory issue, they might assume they have to take what they say with a pitch of salt. But whilst they are trying to avoid being gullible, sometimes they end up being the fool.

When someone wrongly thinks you have been blinded by science.

I was called to a meeting about some paperwork regarding my Dads care. (I might have mentioned this before actually, but I can’t remember.) After the 3 hour drive, the lady James and I had come to meet with, explained what she needed. We hadn’t met her before, but she was very competent. But it all felt so familiar. I kept trying to her that I was sure all this was completed at a prior meeting. But because neither James or the lady had been at the previous meeting, there was only my memory to rely on.

Perhaps I didn’t understand enough about the system. It was plausible that different departments needed similar information but weren’t great at sharing it amongst themselves. Therefore forcing people to complete forms over and over again. Or maybe I was having deja vu? (Those of you who have read about how rubbish I am at French, may I have a round of applause please! I’m only kidding.) My untrustworthy memory failed to stop us continuing with the hours of work.

Brain injury survivors shouldn't be mistaken for a fool

About a week later I received a letter from the lady. She said there must have been a mix up when she was tasked with completing the paperwork. It turned out it had all been completed correctly at the previous meeting. She had been sent on a wild goose chase and was apologising for wasting our time. I’m sure she was hugely frustrated by this scenario, and didn’t like to be made to look like a fool.

But it’s not nice to deliberately fool someone who doesn’t remember.

When my Dad was fighting Alzheimer’s whilst living on his own, he would try to pay people over and over again for the same thing. I know because some of them would make a point of telling me so I could take over the payments via bank transfers. That meant Dad didn’t need cash, they just needed to send their invoice to his PA, me. But it wouldn’t surprise me if some might have succumbed to the temptation to accept the extra cash before I took over.

I might have a brain injury, but that doesn't make me a fool

But I do admit I “recycle” conversation topics with Dad. My life post brain injury isn’t very exciting (as you can tell). So I run out of things to say to him. But as he rarely remembers the last update on the life of Michelle, I do an impression of those TV channels who just broadcast repeats. But as this causes no harm, and is preferable to the awkward silences, I think it is acceptable.

The moral of my story is whilst someone might not always remember, don’t mistake that for lack of intelligence.

For more about how an unreliable memory is a struggle to deal with read Order of events disorientated. Another brain injury aftermath.

Have you ever felt people use your brain injury against you? Do you find yourself doubting your own memory?

 

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Avoiding problems: I must stop burying my head (inc injured brain) in the sand

I can't keep avoiding problems after my brain injury

As I progressed though school, I realised that some teachers gave you a bit more breathing space than others about producing your homework on time. So I liked to think I was learning to prioritise which pieces I needed to deal with when I hadn’t even started some by the completion date. But really I was just avoiding certain ones. It might be because it was more challenging, or just that frankly it was boring to me. Occasionally I found myself in hot water, but not very often. I might be more consistent for a while, but it wouldn’t last and I’d slip back into my old ways. I think I got away with it because otherwise I was a good student. Good attendance, not lippy and good grades.  And maybe I did learn how to prioritise, but now I must stop avoiding things. I must take responsibility for my actions, or I’ll continue to add to my worries.

Avoiding thinking about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

The last 2.5 years since the car accident that caused my brain injury have passed me by in a blur. And yet many major things have happened during that time. I became the Power of Attorney for my Dad and am responsible for all his finances. I can tell you that still feels weird, but I think I did quite well at most things for him. Even though I adapted well to running his day to day finances, there was still lots to learn. I applied to the Government for the support he was entitled to, and would make sure he was paying the right income taxes.

But with all the will in the world, it turned out I had missed out something which was worth a lot of money. In the UK when a person is diagnosed with Dementia they become exempt from paying their council tax. I only read this by chance somewhere. I can’t even remember where. But whilst the fact lodged itself in my brain, I took no further action, even though I knew that Dad had continued to pay his council tax ever since his diagnosis over a year ago. Why? Because I didn’t want to have to explain to someone that I was useless and hadn’t informed the council earlier.

Why I must stop avoiding things after my brain injury

If you keep avoiding it, the stress just keeps building.

I compounded this by keeping it to myself, I didn’t even ask someone to help. It was my problem, no one elses. So it made itself at home, and started festering inside me. My brain injury means I have limited attention and concentration, making it even easier to ignore something. But then when it would pop into my mind it would be bigger and uglier than the last time we met.  It felt like having the debt collector knocking at your door and telling you, that with the interest added, the debt had just doubled.

In my mind I would imagine how badly the conversation with the council would go, and how impossibly complicated it would be. I kept trying to tell myself that even if I tried I would get it wrong and it would be denied – resulting in a lot of frustration and a waste of effort.

Even after a brain injury I'm still avoiding things, now I have to break the habit

It’s not always as difficult as you think.

But finally I grew a back bone, and decided to put and end to this stupid situation. It was totally of my own making so now I was calling time on it. I called the council! And I wasn’t even sat on hold for the next decade. Instead a pleasant lady quickly looked up Dad’s file and explained what I needed to do next. She would send me a form for me to sign authorising Dads doctor to confirm his diagnosis with the council. In total, this took no more than 10 minutes. And whilst the form is still on it’s way to me, I’m no longer terrified of what it needs me to answer.

Don’t get me wrong, having a brain injury means this is so much harder. But whilst many things in my life are being suffocated by the pause button, some things go on.  Life is full of choices, and if I have chosen to deal with this straight away, I could have saved myself a lot of stress as well as dads money.

You can read more about how despite my brain injury, when I put my mind to it, I can do things in Achieving new things doesn’t end after brain injury.

Do you find yourself avoiding things instead of dealing with them? Have you found you do this more or less often since your brain injury?

 

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Neuroplasticity & how you can grow even with a brain injury

How neuroplasticity can improve your life, even with a brain injury

When anyone sustains an injury of some kind, the body immediately starts attempting to heal it. We don’t have to ask it to, it just does it. Often, unless you’re a medic, we don’t really know much about how it’s doing it. Isn’t it amazing! Your most expensive possession, your house can’t do that, unfortunately. It doesn’t even tell you it’s not well, just suddenly something happens, like a roof leak. And if you don’t do something about it, the problem becomes a catalyst for other problems. Even though our bodies have this amazing ability, we do like to give it a helping hand. If you break a bone, yes your body can put it back together again, but we use a cast to make sure it’s straight, improving the result. Your brain creates connections and bins outdated ones all the time. After a brain injury this is the key to the recovery process, but it’s important for everyone. Brain injured or not. But being able to influence which new connections are successful is called Neuroplasticity.

Mind and body as one.

Whilst the body is incredible, to me it is a vessel to carry around my mind. That’s what I consider my consciousness and personality. Perhaps even my soul? So even if I had the most powerful muscles (which I don’t and never have) my mind is my most important asset. But actually treating the mind and body as separate beasts in this way isn’t productive. They are more closely intertwined than I could ever do a explanation justice. But a basic example I can give you is smiling. It’s a proven fact that if you smile more, even when you are feeling down, it will improve your mood. So is the body helping the mind? It’s all to do with your brain and how you respond to situations.

How neuroplasticity helps use develop, particularly after a brain injury

Use it or lose it.

When I was little, my parents only let me use a calculator to check my answers. Making sure I learned not just how to form an equation, but to solve the arithmetic myself. Even though in everyday life they knew as I became an adult I would save time with a calculator, they wanted to make sure I started out with the right skills. But as with many of us, as I got older and became best friends with the calculator, I was teaching my brain I didn’t need that skill anymore. So as those connections weren’t being exercised so much, it started to delete them, making space for more relevant ones. Just like a website can fall down in the Google rankings unless it continues to put the effort it, that’s what happened to my arithmetic. Now using Neuroplasticity I am trying to rebuild them. In short, practice makes perfect. You can read about how I struggle with maths more in Number problems after brain injury.

How Neuroplasticity can help your mental health.

We form our behaviour based on our environment, people we are in contact with, society and experiences. So stop blaming parents for everything! Yes they have a massive part to play in the development of their child, but there’s more to it than that.

I had a friend with little Jack Russel who would growl and start looking for trouble the moment you said the word “cats”. But if an actual cat walked by him, he didn’t care. He thought of it as a command to look out of bad things, but he didn’t think cats were that bad. As he believed that’s what the word meant, that’s what caused the aggressive behaviour. Neuroplasticity is about not accepting your usual reaction is the only way to respond.

Neuroplasticity can help you develop even after a brain injury

So when your consciousness starts berating you, you don’t have to let it win. I might have some weird twitches after my brain injury, but it doesn’t mean people care. I would imagine that people would be thinking I’m really odd, and therefore not good enough. So I hated being around strangers. But mostly people didn’t even notice my twitches, let alone waste effort thinking about them. All I was doing was assuming there was a negative judgement, when there wasn’t. I was destroying my self-confidence. For nothing. Now I just tell that stupid nervous voice to shut up, what does she know anyway. In time my brain will learn that I’m not reacting to her anymore and it will cut her out.

It’s a massive subject and this doesn’t even touch the sides. But if you want the read more about it, Debbie Hampton wrote a brilliant article Neuroplasticity: The 10 Fundamentals Of Rewiring Your Brain . Or in her book “Sex, Suicide and Serotonin” she explains how her negative responses to situations contributed to her suicide attempts. But after years of suffering, she used Neuroplasticity to change her life and attitude. If she can do it, so can we.

Using neuroplasticity after brain injury to improve yourself

 

 

Have you tried Neuroplasticity, and what results are you seeing?

 

 

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Next chapter after brain injury, am I in it now?

Can I start the next chapter after brain injury now?

When I was still receiving counselling following my brain injury, I was warned against allowing it to define me. And I wholeheartedly agreed. But as I am mostly a capable human being these days, am I falling into that trap? I worry that as I still can only live one day at a time, I’m allowing my brain injury to take over me. How do you know it’s time to turn the page and wave goodbye to that chapter of life?

Have I graduated from the life lesson that is brain injury?

Lots of other defining moments in life come with a marker of some kind. The key to the door, the examiner informing you that you successfully passed your driving test, the “sorry your leaving” card on your last day at one job ready to start another, or the first kiss at the wedding. They all tell you something has changed and you need to step up to the mark. Usually they fill you with nervous excitement as the change should be a good one. A new door has opened and you need to walk through and make a difference.

How do I move on to the next chapter after brain injury?

But when you are trying to recover from something as fundamental as a brain injury it doesn’t work like that. No one gives you a commendation signalling you can start the next stage. You just have to decide yourself if you are ready to start to the next chapter. Be it return to some form of work, study a new subject or take on some other life challenge, it’s tough to know when is the right time.

Have I gained a new skill?

I have mentioned before how I was a pretty able student when at school. Never really having to apply myself too much to get good grades most people would be proud of. Perhaps that made me a little arrogant at the time. I remember being surprised and a bit insulted when my Mum one day said my older sister was better at English than me. To be fair I didn’t find it came as naturally to me as some other subjects. I felt uncomfortable with it being subjective, and unlike maths there is no definitive answer.  I wasn’t great at reading between the lines in literature, or being able to write something creative.

And I’m still not creative, but I think I’m doing OK at writing my blog, which is effectively an open diary. But perhaps it’s do to with having a purpose. After my Mum uttered those words to me, I saw it as a challenge. I pushed myself to prove I could do better, and I did achieve higher grades in English than my sister in the end. And because my blog has a important purpose for me, perhaps that is why it seems to be working.

The next chapter after brain injury

Is this the new chapter?

So have I stumbled across something? People say it’s not a job when you’re having fun doing it whilst being paid. Some lucky folks work out how to have that  reality for themselves. I never could imagine what that might look like for me, as I guess it didn’t have a strong passion. But whilst I’m not paid to do this, I really enjoy it. I just wish Mum could see me now, she’d still point out all my spelling and punctuation errors, but I think she’d be pleasantly surprised.

Therefore I’m wondering if I should be looking for a way to turn this into my next career. Don’t worry I don’t plan on charging people to read my blog, that would be criminal. But I need to start brainstorming, as I want to continue with it, assuming you guys want to keep reading it. Maybe some of you have found yourselves in a similar boat. If you have stories of how you turned a hobby into a career I’d love it hear them.

Everything has it’s good and bad points. Blogging has come with come challenges which you can read about in Confess to pressure: being a voice of brain injury.

What does the next chapter look like for you? Do you know what you want to do next?

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Friends agony of my brain injury I didn’t let her help with

I have many friends who live far away as I relocated years ago. But they are amazing friends that although we rarely see each other, when we do it’s like we only saw each other yesterday. And they mean the world to me. But when I was first injured I didn’t let on to them how badly  I was affected. I suppose I wanted them to think of me the way I was, not the broken confused mess I had become. Perhaps that was egotistical of me. Also I thought I was doing them a favour. They were so far away they couldn’t do much anyway. So I thought it would just be something they would worry about that they didn’t need. But actually I have realised that maybe I was being unfair.

I bottled it all up.

Whilst you are used to me being very honest with you about my experience, it wasn’t always like this. I’d gone from this confident, self assured woman, to a babbling, twitching mess. I used to enjoy how people would value my opinion on things and ask me for advice. But suddenly I had nothing to offer, so I just sent out the message that I had survived a car accident. That’s it. Whilst they were all thinking “That was a close shave” they didn’t know this was much worse than just whiplash.

I didn't tell my friends who lived far away about my brain injury

But my friends were devastated I didn’t ask for help.

My friend H (I don’t know if she minds being named) when I first started this blog sat down and read 5 articles in one go. These were the ones that really lay out the initial struggle of my brain injury. H found herself crying that I had faced that without my closest friends. Previously I wrote in Relationships vanish magnifying the trauma of brain injury about what it’s like to find some people aren’t in your life anymore as they can’t deal with the change. And there are some people who fall into this category who I can guarantee don’t read this blog. But actually H and some others would have bent over backwards for me, if I had let them. I was busy thinking how I had nothing to give, but H just wanted to help, not take anything in return.

My friends wanted to help me after my brain injury more than I realised

Don’t put words in other people mouths.

I had misjudged the situation altogether. Maybe that was because I under valued myself. I knew H was an amazing person, as are the few friends I still have keep in touch with in the South West of England. But we had never faced a test like this, and as life moves on, I assumed this broken me wouldn’t fit anymore. But since I have opened up I have seen that I was wrong. Life is a journey that never stops shaping us. So just because we change, it doesn’t mean others won’t still like us. H says there are facial expressions that I don’t pull anymore, but that could just be that I’ve grown up rather than the brain injury.

Wish I'd been more open with my friends about my brain injury

H likes to try to spread happiness and make others smile even when she feels like crying herself. And this is what makes her special. So H, I’m sorry I didn’t let you in earlier. Just having another person to share this with would have been what I needed, but I thought I was being selfless by not.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want others to make the mistake I did. As I explained in Relationships vanish magnifying the trauma of brain injury , many of us do find some can’t cope. Don’t automatically think people don’t want to know the details or can’t help. It’s not even that anyone has to do anything in particular, it’s just knowing they are there for you. If there is someone you haven’t spoken to in a while who never had the full details of your experience, maybe trying reaching out to them. You might be surprised. You have nothing to lose, and perhaps a lot to gain.

Is there someone you with you could open up to? Or is there someone who has been your rock that you couldn’t have done it without?

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