6

Latch onto the affirmative

I’ve started going to a Brain injury Support group, its a small group but after the 2 meetings we’ve had so far its been a great source of support and gives me the chance to talk to other people apart from myself.

We were given homework after our first session to think about change. People often say after a TBI that they feel somehow different or that their identity has changed, we had to come up with 2 ways in which we have changed and 2 ways in which we have stayed the same.

I found this incredibly difficult, it would have been easy to reel off the negatives; anxiety, isolation etc but I wanted to try and find positive answers to this. If you’d have asked me a few months ago I would have said that everything has changed, I’m not the same person and never will be. But whilst reflecting on the question I realised something, the way I think about things may have changed, there may be a skew in most things I think and feel but fundamentally, deep down, I’m still me, I’m still Braingirl. Now this was a revelation to me because everything felt so, well, different.

One of the things  I settled on was the change in my attitude to what is important, I used to run around all over the place doing everything for everyone and never just take the time to ‘smell the roses’. But after a year of HAVING to sit with myself and be still, I now appreciate it’s the things in life you miss whilst rushing around that matter. Birds singing, rain on the window, love, friendship, you get a better appreciation of the simple beauty of life. It’s about filtering what is important and choosing what to get angry about. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ is a cliche but it’s true. When it comes down to it does that red light or that person holding up the queue really matter? Truly they don’t. What’s the rush? Does it matter?

This train of thought led me to think about happiness. I’ve read a lot about gratitude and happiness during my recovery and I’ll be honest it was a bit of an epiphany. Most people think that if they line up the ducks as it were that they will somehow achieve ‘happiness’, as if it’s a prize at the end of the game. Be honest, how many of us say to ourselves “if only I can get this job/promotion/car/holiday, I’ll be happy” we all do it. But what happens when we get that thing we were aiming for? We might feel temporarily elated, satisfied but then the voice starts again, “I’ve got the job but I still don’t feel quite right maybe I need to buy a house”. So on and so on, life then becomes a rushed pursuit of something that we think is ‘out there’. I had an income, a house, a marriage, a busy social life but was I happy? No in all honesty, deep down I was not. I still felt on the outside edge of everything, never really fully engaged.  I’m sure there are many rich miserable people who can’t understand why the acquisition of ‘things’ hasn’t helped them. I’m not saying you cant be rich and happy, of course you can but it’s not coming from what you have it’s coming from within. Same goes for not having much either. I’ve got nothing anymore, I’m having to start again and I feel I can be happy with much less than I had

Let me let you in on a secret, a secret that completely changed the way I think. Happiness isn’t out there, it’s within us. Happiness is a frame of mind. If you constantly think sad horrible thoughts how do you think you are going to feel? That’s right, sad and horrible. I’m not saying it’s easy to attain because it involves changing a lot of entrenched thinking but it’s there ready to grab if you try. That’s not to say you will never be sad or scared again, you will because this is human nature and if you don’t get the bad how do you know what the good feels like?  BUT you will handle things better, you will be able to not let things consume you as much. You will see those thoughts for what they are, just thoughts and let things float by.

My good days are starting to outnumber the bad at last. The bad, when they are there, are very bad but they give way to better days of peace and acceptance.

I find myself wearing this more frequently

the bra of hope

Let me know your positive outcomes from what initially felt like the end of the world.

4

Hello darkness my old friend

It’s cold out there now, bloody freezing in fact. So this becomes excuse number 45 in my list of excuses to do nothing.

Before the accident I was very active, I did over 5 hours skating every week as well as going running up hills, walking in beautiful Craggs and generally keeping busy. Then the accident happened and all that went out of the window. Imagine losing all that overnight, I lost everything.

Brain Injury is a lonely place. I don’t know anyone in real life who has experienced it, the people I have met via the Internet are too far away and so you become a tribe of one. Also factor in that it happened just as I moved countries and hadn’t had a chance to really build up a social life and you get a lot of staring into space done in a day.

I’ve read all I want to read about my condition and subsequent mental health issues for now, there has to come a point where you put the books down and start just ‘getting on with it’. That is the problem now though, just getting on with it has suddenly become the hardest thing in the world. I have no motivation whatsoever and the anxiety still lurks telling me that everything is dangerous. That voice is becoming less strong now but when everyone works during the week there’s no one to kick my arse out of the door. I need that right now, I’m not doing it myself yet, I think that will come but I just need a boost initially. As a result I’ve become very deconditioned physically, the only way I’m going to get energy back and beat the anxiety is to get active again.

People might think I’m lucky, there are some who would love to stay at home all day and do nothing but believe me it gets very boring very quickly. I would like the choice, I would like ‘normal’. Normal seems pretty damn good from where I’m standing right now.

So if you are Belfast based and enjoy walking and are free sometimes in the week please let me know. Maybe I could start my own decrepits walking group.

Disclaimer: I do sometimes flake out due to health, so flexibility is a must!

0

You do it to yourself

I’m writing today about my injury and the impact it has on my life….. again.

You see with something like this happening it becomes all you know.

small worldI left hospital with an extra item, one I didn’t even notice for a while. It became part of me very quickly and I still have it to this day. It’s invisible to everyone else but I know it’s there underneath my clothes.

mumuDespite its voluminous size and eye watering pattern it’s hard to see at first, it was sneakily put on underneath my clothes on top of the bra of happiness when I left hospital. It’s deceptive and seductive. The folds of its material and the warmth it gives make you keep it on for a while but that’s when it has got you.

The Mumu of Injury you see is a parasitic polyester freeloader, it hangs around and makes you think that it’s all you need. You begin to believe it’s all you can talk and think about. It encourages you to symptom check and read endless books about your condition. It starts to become one with you and define who you are. I have become very ‘inward’, I constantly navel gaze and forget to look outwards. This results in dissociation or depersonalisation. Anxiety sufferers will know this sensation well. I am becoming ‘cut off’ from the world. This is where the Mumu is clever, you start doing its work for it.

My Mumu is still here it’s getting tatty and smelly and uncomfortable but it doesn’t want to go, it invades my head at night whilst I’m trying to sleep, it stops me paying my full attention to things I’m doing, it pokes at my brain when I try to have conversations.

My Mumu knows its time is nearly up though, I’ve got wise to its ways, I’m starting to switch my brain away from its ridiculous ideas and hopeless dialogue so it tries a little harder to cling. I see it though now, I see its garish colours and I now realise that instead of doing it to myself that all I need to do is stop listening to it. I don’t want to help it anymore. I am starting some phased exposure and pushing myself outside even when the Mumu is choking me and weighing me down. I’m not listening to it when it whispers in my ear that my tiny wee head ‘zap’ is something very serious. It’s hard to go against what the Mumu is telling me, it’s scary, it makes me shake and want to run away but I need to release the bra of happiness once more. I don’t want this trauma to define who I am anymore.

We all have our own Mumu’s, they come in many guises. Anxiety, depression, illness, tell me about yours and how you are defeating it. I hope you all get to release your bras of happiness someday too.