I’ve learned the most about my brain injury by simply living. By just doing things and seeing how it goes.
Learning by facts
Unfortunately, this isn’t my preferred method of learning. I’m one of those people who loves to research things to their fullest extent. I can get really happy by discovering new facts from reliable sources (a result from my university days). When being confronted with something new, my first impulse is to look for more information. Which is why I immediately went on a fact finding mission after I was told I had a brain injury.
The information I found was quite disappointing. Most of it was focused on the injury itself or the first few months after. Also they mostly described situations that weren’t similar to mine at all. Instead of hard facts, I had to learn by trial and error.
Learning by trial and error
At certain times it’s really clear that something doesn’t work. Like the first time I went to a birthday celebration. The first twenty minutes were fine, but during a moment of solitude the floodgates opened. I suffered from complete sensory overload and couldn’t do anything. The lesson was clear, birthdays and I no longer go together.
Fortunately most lessons are less direct (and public) confrontations. The challenge then is to realize that a lesson is waiting to be learned. To distinguish between a bad day and when something turned out to be too much for your brain to handle.
If you also have a tendency of stubbornness or being head-strong (slowly raises hand) this challenge will get even more complicated.
I still remember my occupational therapist telling me that I might benefit from sleeping during the day. I reacted with disbelief and was lightly offended. As I was neither sick nor old, why would I need to sleep during the day? It took me two weeks to actually try it out. Naturally the therapist turned out to be right. I definitely benefited from sleeping during the day and had learned another lesson.
Recognizing a learning opportunity
Learning by trial and error is something that takes me a lot of time. As I’m really good in avoiding and ignoring things. Regrettably, there always comes a moment in which reality won’t be ignored any longer. I finally realized that this strategy of avoiding and ignoring, isn’t helpful at all.
I should realize a little sooner whenever I need to change something. Luckily, I think I have found three signs that tell me when my brain is struggling. Signs that tell me to look for a lesson on what my brain needs.
Whenever I’m too tired or distracted, I always end up walking into objects. Though I never remember doing so. After a couple of days I’ll suddenly notice the bruising on my legs. Rather than noticing them and being glad that the colder weather requires long pants, I might start to realize something needs to change.
I’ve dropped so many things on the floor these past weeks. Sadly, this mostly happens whenever I am handling food. Really annoying. Often this is accompanied with putting stuff in the wrong place or messing up the sequence of events, like all the steps you need to do when making coffee. As soon as this turns from an isolated incident, into a daily happening, I need to start paying attention.
Those headaches that will stay with you for days. You’ll notice them the moment you wake up and at certain times during the day they’ll rise to the foreground. Thankfully it doesn’t changes into a migraine, but this near continues headache can really affect my patience and humour. It might mean that my brain is telling me something.
I finally recognized that when these three signs coincide, I need to take a step back. Apparently something is going on that my brain can’t handle. So I will listen to my body and hopefully can learn a new lesson.
To be continued.
Do you have similar signs? Are you any better in realizing that something is bothering your brain rather than having a stretch of bad days? How have you learned the most about your brain injury?