Subscribe to my FREE newsletter
Be the first to know about new articles!
blog hero image (1)

Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Subscribe to my FREE newsletter
Be the first to know about new articles!
blog hero image (1)

Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Brain injury survivor explains why your career isn’t your self-worth

Follow me:

We are used to judging people by their profession: The customer service assistant, the doctor, the plumber, the football player, the chambermaid, the factory worker. And I’m willing to bet a significant number of people who just read those job titles felt less positively about the last 2 I mentioned because they aren’t as “successful” or “educated”. Or at least that’s what most of us think societies opinion is. So when we don’t have a current career because we have suffered a brain injury, we think others will be judging us because we aren’t good enough at something to be able to earn a salary.

When I had to give up my career I was asking the question “What is the point of me now? How do I add any value to anything?” Suddenly I was feeling a lack of self-worth worth after a brain injury. Hands up who else felt like this! 

We like measurable actions, so being able to say your salary is X, indicates your value to society, right?

Wrong. But it’s pretty common to think that way. Doctors earn more because they have to have high intelligence to be able to learn and practice medicine, which the major of the population would not be able to do. The factor worker doesn’t need the same level of education and therefore a lot of people would find that they could perform this job. It’s a simple case of supply and demand, the more people who can perform a job, the less employers need to pay them because there’s more competition.

A job title does not say anything about if someone is a good person, and if their impact on their community is a good one.

It’s easy to assume that a doctor is someone who is having a positive impact. But that’s all it is, as assumption. Take Dr Harold Shipman who in 2000 was convicted here in England of the murder of 15 patients, but it’s believed around 250 people could have been victims of his over the span of his career.

Then there’s Didar Hossain who worked in a factory opposite the Rana Plaza building, Bangladesh, when it collapsed in 2013. He forced his way in to help people even though the authorities were trying to stop people for their own safety. He helped many people buried in the rubble, but he found a girl that they couldn’t release without amptating her hand. Didar alerted a doctor who replied “I can’t go in there, I’m frightened. You do it.” and handed him a knife and some anaesthetic to numb the area. Once he had cut the girls hand off and begun to lift her, another man begged him to cut his leg off so he too could be freed. Realising that he would die if he left him, he did as he’d asked. With both amputees tied to his body he slowly dragged them both out.

Now clearly these are extreme cases, but I think they demonstrate my point pretty well.  You’re self-worth does not need to be tied to your career. We have the ability to make a difference whether we work or not. And that doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as what Didar did. It could just be listening to someone when they needed you, or making a child smile.

Thinking a career indicates your value to society is just a self limiting belief. 

Now I’m sure most of us had families, teachers and mentors who encouraged us to realise our potential in life. But the reason they did this was so we could have good careers, LEADING TO a comfortable lifestyle. That means they were doing it to help you have a happy future. But because we are used to hearing about how “successful” others are, we end up confusing that with what society thinks of us.

If I did a pole asking you who would you rather invite to dinner and meet your family, Dr Harold Shipman or factory worker, Didar Hossain, I am certain Didar would win. (Alright, I know some of us would like to grill Shipman about “Who do you think you are?!” but you can’t because the coward killed himself shortly after his conviction.) Didar probably earns a modest wage and lives hand to mouth. His education is likely to be limited and it probably doesn’t take long to list his qualifications. But you’d rather have him meet your family because you know he’s a good man who acted to save the lives of others totally selflessly. He gained nothing, apart from friendship as he and the girl stayed in touch for years after the event.

I’m telling you this because I’ve been in the same boat.

Following my brain injury I had to give up my career at the ripe old age of 32. I felt washed up and a burden to my partner James. It took a long time for me to start to see that my value to the world has nothing to do with my job. (If you want to know more about how I bounced back, you can read about it on the page 6 weeks from surviving to thriving course.) How many of you reading this right now think my previous career has any relevance to the impact my writing has on you? I know I have touched on my career before, but I bet most of you don’t remember the details because it just doesn’t matter! It’s about how you make people feel, that’s what people remember, not words. As my job titles probably didn’t create an emotional response in you, so your brain just discarded it. But my honestly about my journey could have resonated with you, and so that’s what your brain decided to connect with. 

If you’ve hit rock bottom, it’s a long journey back, but know the only way is up.  Don’t feel alone, many survivors feel a lack of self-worth after a brain injury.  I hope this will help you start to disentangle your self-worth from your career as I think for a lot of us that is a key starting point.


10 replies on “Brain injury survivor explains why your career isn’t your self-worth”

My brain injury, which I received in 1998 at the age of 19, while I was in college, trying to attain a degree in what would become my career, creative writing. After my accident, I tried to write, but could not. So, I thought well, it was fun what it lasted, but now it’s gone, so I need to focus on another degree. My love of English literature was still strong. So, I changed my major to becoming a teacher, little did I know, you can’t become a teacher if you have seizures, which I did. Doing my homework in college, I would take breaks and write stories. I thought that part of my life was done, so I said, “well that is what I will do as a hobby, nothing will ever become of that.” A couple of years later, me changing my major 5 times (first time I have ever changed my major). So, years later, I always thought that I needed a degree to be a writer, little did I know. I have more than an associate degree, not yet a B.A., my business partner, well my old business partner; we started a business of publishing books. But, now I’m on my own and still publishing books, making documentaries, writing a television show, and hopefully will start a vintage clothing company. My accident helped me see more outside the box, I feel I am more creative now, with a little help I publish my own books. Right now, I am writing poetry. Though I’m not a world-famous or New York Times Bestselling list or anything. I feel I have better self-worth, not because of my career or maybe it is, not sure.

Thanks for sharing your story Julie! It perfectly demonstrates that life has a funny way of making us go down paths that we may not have considered before, but if we approach it as an opportunity we can do great things ?

I was in my mid 50’s when I had my SAH and subsequent brain injury. I worked in the skilled trades (electrician) I wasn’t prepared for the aftershock of loosing my job, my employer was a small company who used the excuse that they couldn’t make accommodations for my “disability” I was still seeing outpatient therapists at the time and they did their best to help me put this aside and prepare for finding meaningful work.

Long story short, I found a production job that I hated to start with, I stuck with it and a position came up in the maintenance department. I applied and now I am the maintenance person. I look forward to going to work like I used to in my last job. My company has plenty of opportunity’s for training and career advancement and I intend to take ones that are offered to me.

It goes to show that sometimes an opportunity comes from an unexpected place and you should try something outside your comfort zone

Yes you’re so right David. If you allow yourself to be open to opportunities, even when they look like a toad, you can turn them into a prince or princess ? ?

For years after my stroke, I believed i had no purpose in life because I couldn’t work anymore. Over time, I learned that my purpose WASN’T gone. It had CHANGED. That gave me a big shift in perspective and I could search for what my life could look like now.

That’s a great way of putting it Ellen! Yes our purpose changes and it takes time to realise it and get used to it, but that isn’t a bad thing.

Thanks Vivian. Yes I agree seeing as there are loads of reasons that can make a person have to give up their career.

Following my brain injury, after several weeks of being off work I returned starting with 4 hours a day and increasing by an hour each month. I was in fear of losing my position, which led me to over do it causing me to regress as a result. In the meantime a coworker was actively trying to take over my position and started to spread rumors about me and my injury. I wasn’t there to defend myself and now he has turned a lot of people I work with against me. I had tried to make arrangements with my supervisor for a rest area for me and was denied . I felt that if I made it back to full time then everything would be ok and my life would be back to normal. In the long run I worked myself too hard and am now paying the price. Back on medical leave, my position up for grabs , and a new set of issues dealing with the slanderous comments spread by this coworker. I loved my position and am very depressed that’s cannot be at work. Nobody can see the invisible brain injury so they all just believe what they are told. I just want to back to normal and back to work.

I understand, I miss my old job and the people I worked with too. But you need to prioritise your health. Jobs come and go, and even change meaning we might not like them as much any more. But your brain is always with you and needs your support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog newsletter

Get an email which gives you an introduction into the topic of the latest post so you never miss one again. If you ever change your mind and decide you no longer want to receive these emails there will be an unsubscribe link included at the bottom of every one, so you have nothing to lose!