Relationships

Major life-changing injuries can be rough on every type of relationships, romantic ones, familial ones, and friends.

Major life-changing injuries can be rough on every type of relationships, romantic ones, familial ones, and friends.

Some of these relationships will fizzle out and are not able to withstand the challenges presented. As harsh as this can be, in the end, it is a good thing. This process will show you who your real friends are.

I do not have experience with losing friends after the incident. But the things that frustrate me the most, I have found, frustrate some of my friends also. The only difference is that they can walk away.

I am usually able to be close to people who can look past the difficulties. I have had some friends who can’t handle it. I am not able to say what makes them leave but for whatever reason they do.

My injury has been used as an excuse for even a breakup. That was not fun, and it hurt a lot. If it was the exact reason I can’t say, but it didn’t feel right.

The important thing about being rejected is that life goes on. I use it as motivation to show how wrong they really are. It is essential the push a little more because of each rejection.

People’s Reactions

When people hear about my story there are many different reactions. Some people accept it and others think I am a new person who can’t understand a normal situation

People have unpredictable reactions. This may be because you never know what the other person has gone through. Therefore, it can be difficult to tell someone about your big life-altering event.

This first question I must ask myself is how to bring it up. Do I want them to know just to know or is it essential information that would be helpful for them to understand how I work.

Usually, I assess the situation and first decide why I feel the need to tell them. After that comes the tricky part, how to bring it up.

This usually does not require a lot of thought. It is a subject that comes up naturally or not. If it does come up naturally, I am not able to think about how to describe what happened.

After telling your story, it doesn’t require a lot of thought. It is your story, there is no right or wrong way to say it. The important thing is that you know what you want to say.
The big fear I always have is after the story is over how will they view me. I never thought of this much before, but what made me think of it, was when it happened to me.

There was a teacher I had that knew my background, but I felt like I was being mistreated and getting talked down to. Even at my young age, I did not appreciate it. This is when I became self-conscious of my story and decided to keep it to myself until people got to know me better.

I found this to assist in my dilemma. As friends and teachers got to know me for who I was and not what had happened to me, they seemed more open to my story. I felt like nothing change their view of me once they found out since they were able to know me for me.

This is not always possible. No matter how they react, if you feel it is the right thing to do, then do it. People are unpredictable. You never know how they will respond, the critical part is that you do what is best for you. If it is something you feel the need to do, then do it.

If someone reacts to how you don’t want them to, they are just one person. Think of everyone else in your life who are supportive and treat you like a human being. Just keep your head up high and know it is not your problem. If they have a problem with your story maybe it is not the right place for you to be in.

Gratitude

I like to tell people after they have heard my story that I am thankful for what happened. This injury has shaped who I am and what I enjoy doing.

I could not imagine what I would be like if my injury didn’t happen. I am not sure if I would be able to do stuff I could do now.

Thanks to this injury I have a strong work ethic. I can push through challenges and do what I want to do. I am not willing to give up on anything.

I used to not be able to stand on one foot, but after hard work in physical therapy, I am not jumping on the ice and landing on one foot.

I am thankful for all the opportunities that I had to get to work on the things that proved difficult for me.

I am thankful for the people who didn’t give up on me when things became difficult. This happens a lot.

My injury has taught me how to be compassionate towards people who have their own struggles. There are people you will encounter in life who don’t understand that things that come easily to them don’t come quickly to others.

I am thankful that my injury has allowed me to advocate for what I need to succeed. This took me some time to learn, but I began the process at a young age. Everyone needs to learn this no matter what the situation is.

Learning Spanish

It is helpful to learn a foreign language. I started to learn Spanish in 6th grade. I never knew what to expect. The process of learning English was so painful for me that I completely expected to give up after the required year of taking a language, but I chose not to.

It turned out that I fell in love with it. For some reason learning a language must occur in a different part of the brain because it turned out that I was able to catch on quickly.
I still put a lot of effort into learning Spanish, but it all came with ease. I was able to see the results that I hadn’t seen in other subjects.

My first Spanish teacher was terrific. She was part of the reason I fell in love with the language. I was able to want to continue my learning throughout my school career.
There were some frustrating times and concepts I have more of a difficult time with, but the difference was that I was able to have a drive through that frustration.

There was a teacher in high school that made me fall out of love with the language. This teacher did not understand that for me to be fluent in Spanish, I will be slower at retrieving words because that was how I speak English.

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Obsessed

OCD is not specific to brain injuries but it is never an easy thing to deal with

For those of you who don’t know, OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The DSM 5 defines OCD as, “the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both.”

It can be debilitating and take up most of one’s time throughout the day. The DSM 5 has plenty more under the definition, I have a link to the page at the end of my post.

Anyone can have OCD. It is not unique to a person with a brain injury. I am writing about it because I have OCD. Just like everything in my life, there is no sure way to know if it is a result of the injury or something else.

The most challenging thing I have found about OCD is trying to get people to understand what I am doing. Some compulsions are difficult to hide, which means that people will see them and ask about it.

My most visible compulsion is picking the scabs on my arms. I usually have big red spots on my arms from where I picked and the scares from the older places.

It is not a pretty sight, and people become curious about it. I have had people ask me what happened, and I just say I am allergic to mosquito bites. Someone asked if I had chicken pox.

I won’t lie, it is not fun. It is humiliating and painful to stop. I promise you that is not the only compulsion, but it is the most visible.

No matter what obstacles your brain injury gives you, you are not alone. We all struggle with something, visible or not. If anyone needs to talk to someone who gets it, let me know.

Even with a brain injury, you are not stuck with the life after it. There are ways to improve it. I went to therapy, and it decreased the intensity of my picking. There are ways to get help, and it is worth it.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy was a slow and painful process but in the long run it was probably the best thing for me.

I have a joke I like to tell people when I talk about what I had to go through with my brain injury. I tell people that name any type of therapy, and I have been through it. Apparently, that is not true, but at times it felt like it.
The therapy I remember most is speech therapy. I did speech therapy in two different settings. When I began, I went to a home office, this was nice and private, so I wasn’t ashamed of it.
It overall felt more comfortable. I was able to have anonymity, so my friends didn’t have to know what I was doing. In elementary school, the image that I was an average kid was critical to me. I am not sure why because now I don’t care about that, but back then I did.
My first speech therapist was great. She knew how to make things fun and explain them to me in a way I understood. It allowed me to feel better about what I was doing because I had a better understanding of what I needed to work on.
My second therapist was great. She was sweet and loved her job. What I had against it was public, and I ended up missing parts of school because of it.
I also had to do that therapy in a group. Most of the time it was just another guy and me. This was a different experience from what I was used to. It always felt like a competition against him instead of having the opportunity to improve.
The fact that I had to miss reading or math lessons did not help how I did in school. It made me mad and frustrated. In the long run, it helped me. It was a good choice, and I wouldn’t change it.

Photo by Hrayr Movsisyan on Unsplash

Transitions

The process of growing up is a difficult one for anyone. The application process is long and tedious. It is scary for every high school junior or senior. The addition of a brain injury complicates the process.

Brain injuries affect their humans differently. My brain injury made it, so I needed to fight to receive extra time on admissions tests. But still, my scores did not reflect my work ethic. It was very frustrating.

I needed to rely on other parts of my application to get in. I went to a small high school, so my references knew me very well. I was lucky, but some kids do not have the support that I had. It is crucial for them to find someone who can help them through this transition.

The worst part for me was once I hit submit. I couldn’t change or improve my application. I just needed to wait. As the letters poured in saying no while all my friends were getting accepted I needed to lean on my support system often.

It was a process to find schools that accepted me based on other stuff then my test scores. It is important to know there are options. Just because friends and classmates get into amazing schools doesn’t mean you are in trouble.

There is always a way to get to what you want to do. If college isn’t an option at first, there are other ways. There are gap year programs and community college to start the process that way or go into the workforce and then apply later. It is essential to know what to suggest when feelings are down about getting into schools. It is not easy for anyone, but it can be worse with a unique obstacle.

What do you love to do

After your life has gotten back to as normal as it can be after one’s brain injury, hobbies and sports may change. It is essential to find a new hobby that you enjoy doing.
Finding your niche will allow life to feel more normal and be better than just living to go through the motions. It will take a few tries to see what you enjoy doing.
The thing that might bring pleasure may not come easy, but that doesn’t matter. If it is fun, and you enjoy it the difficulty can be dealt with.
I have found that I enjoy figure skating and let me tell you, it is not an easy thing. I love being on the ice. Even when I have a rough time learning a new jump or spin, I can step back and take a few laps then I am happy to be on the ice again.
Before figure skating, I was into dancing. The transition to skating from dancing was a simple transition that helped make my struggles in skating easy. It doesn’t have to be that kind of shift. It is all about finding what you enjoy.
I am willing to put the work that is needed to be successful because it is what I love doing it. This may be an activity that you enjoyed doing before the injury, or you may want to try something new.
What kind of stuff have you gotten into after your injury?

Invisible Wounds

Wounds or injuries that someone can see just by looking at you are considered real. They earn the sympathy and respect of others. Invisible wounds are more difficult for others to understand and respect.

I have had people think I am lying about my injury because I can walk and talk. I don’t look like I am hurt or scared, and people are visual, so since I look normal, there is nothing wrong with me. The invisible wound judgment can happen with multiple injuries including mental health, cognitive disabilities, and strokes.

I am not saying people need to treat everyone with a brain injury different or sympathetically, I want understanding from people. Even though people cannot see what is going on, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. They do not understand what exactly one is going through but not fighting your experience would be nice.

I know it is difficult, and I am not big on getting pity but being able to understand why something may be ‘more difficult than it should be’ would be great. Pity is not a fun thing to get. I have almost yelled at people in hopes to get the point across that they can communicate with me like I am an average human.

Everyone wants to be treated normally; this includes people with invisible wounds and visible wounds. It is important that others see you as human because of that what you are. Visible or invisible wounds, you are still human. Do not be afraid to stand up and tell others what you need and how they need to treat you. Being able to work in a comfortable setting is necessary.

Support System

The recovery of a brain injury can be a lonely one. Having a good support system with you is essential. Your support system can have various roles they play. They can be a shoulder to cry on, aid in performing exercises or taking you to appointments. Whatever you need, it is crucial that you at least have someone in your corner.
I got lucky with my support system. My two most prominent supporters are my mom and dad. They were always willing to give me what I needed and supported me in what I wanted to do. They were my shoulder to cry on when life seemed hopeless. They were always my largest cheerleaders. If I wanted to try something they made it happen. There was one time when I was younger where they let me go to physical therapy just because I wanted to stand on one foot.

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