The lesson that got repeated frequently during my rehabilitation, was to stop comparing to your previous life. Because a brain injury turns your whole life upside down, resulting in a long list of things you no longer can do or no longer can enjoy. Thus when you keep comparing to how it was before, chances are you’ll only get upset, frustrated or angry. At least that is my experience.
The lesson was to stop comparing to your previous life, but to compare to a moment in your new life. What can you do now, that you couldn’t do last year? Or what are the things you can do now, that you couldn’t do the first week, month or year after you injured your brain? When you think like this, you’ll probably find that you have improved more than you thought.
This lesson also came with a helpful tip. One I’ve mentioned here before. The tip was to celebrate each step forward, no matter how small. To deliberately notice that you’re improving and to celebrate that. (I choose to celebrate with some sugary treat, as one can never have enough reasons to enjoy a slice of cake. But maybe that’s just me 😉.)
Celebrating these victories, no matter how small, helps me. It helps me to stay positive and to feel confident about the future. As I see that things are, albeit slowly, improving. Or maybe things aren’t improving, but the way I deal with things improves. Maybe it’s my attitude that’s changing, resulting in less self-sabotage.
It doesn’t really matter if things are getting better or if my attitude is improving, as the result is the same. Because in both cases I feel better.
The small moments
This week had two cake-moments, two victories. Added together, these moments lasted less than two minutes. But, I still choose to not only celebrate these moments, but to share them. Because for me these moments represent something bigger. They represent that I can change on the inside. I can change my emotional response and can find the courage to make the right decisions. Which are two things that I’ve struggled with (a lot) in the past.
My first victory, was at work. I was asked to give a presentation. To speak for thirty minutes, followed by a Q&A session. This meant that I was speaking for the better part of an hour. Something that has become a lot harder since my brain injury. As I have to find the right words, focus on the questions and provide the right answers. But all in all, I thought it went well.
Two days later I spoke to a colleague who attended the presentation. She mentioned, that she noticed that I was having more trouble speaking towards the end and asked if that was due to my brain injury. “Yes, that was my brain injury”, I replied and there was my moment.
That was my victory. Saying those five words without feeling any embarrassment or shame. Which is something that has been very different in the past. Especially, in work situation, I hated to think that people would notice my brain injury.
Now however, it was just like stating a fact, without having to face any negative feelings. Speaking for an hour has become more difficult, but that didn’t keep me from presenting. Which is exactly in line with the person that I want to be. To not avoid difficult situations, but to be able to acknowledge -without judgement- that my brain injury affects me.
Another small moment happened that same day. I felt I was nearing my limits and decided to postpone a work appointment. Previously I would have gone to that meeting. I hadn’t reached my limit yet, had I? Surely I could bite to bullet and though it out. As soon as I got off I could hole up in my bed with a migraine.
I can’t believe that that has been my go-to-response these past years. I’m very glad that this time I choose a different approach. I explained the situation and asked if we could postpone our appointment. Luckily this was possible and I didn’t have to suffer a migraine attack.
It’s these kind of little things, that I find incredibly difficult, but make my life a lot easier. I hope that by celebrating and sharing these moments, making the right decisions in the future becomes a little bit easier. Hopefully these victories won’t be an one-time thing, but will become part of my new normal.
What kind of victories, no matter how small, could you celebrate this past year? How would/do you choose to celebrate a step forward?