If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.
– Maya Angelou
Life takes us down roads that we often don’t understand. After a brain injury, the very thing you need to understand the journey, your brain, isn’t working the way it usually does. This makes the journey back even longer and more difficult.
Through thousands of hours of working with people with brain injuries over the years, one truth remains: you will never get back to “normal”. Not because your brain won’t heal, or because all hope for the return of your old life is gone, but because you can’t go through something this traumatic and this hard without changing. Not only does your brain change, but your life changes and the people around you change. This also means that “normal” will change, and a new normal takes its place.
The Trauma of Brain Injury
Trauma happens to the brain after an injury. But trauma also happens to your life. A non-injured brain has difficulty processing life’s traumatic events. What you are living right now is a brain out of its element and a brain that isn’t functioning at your level. Processing all of the emotional impact of the trauma can feel nearly impossible. As the brain heals, so will your ability to deal with the emotional pieces. It just takes time.
Grief and Loss
Brain injury causes complex and complicated grief and loss. When someone we care about dies, there is a whole process of grieving that we go through but there is a process. With complex grief, every single time you are confronted with what you’ve lost, including yourself, this grief comes screaming back into your brain, but a brain that isn’t yours to know how to process through it. Loss of jobs, family, friends, independence, driving and social activities is not a minor life challenge. It is a major hurdle. Self-acceptance is the way through the grief. It just takes time.
Our brain functions but our mind relates and interprets. The brain’s ability to access the mind after an injury is difficult and can feel impossible. Your brain is trying to heal, reconnect neurons, help speech, memory and vision work better. Your brain is overworked – and finding the energy to process emotions is not a priority. Let the healing happen and be kind to yourself through the journey. It just takes time.
It Just Takes Time
This should be your morning mantra every single day. It’s a natural need to compare your progress to others, but you are a unique you, with your own unique brain and experiences. Because of this, every person’s journey is different. The time it will take to heal and find your life again is not dependent on how severe your injury was. It takes the time it takes. Find the right team around you to help you get back to that as quickly as possible, but this is a marathon, not a sprint.
The New Normal
I have uttered these words a million times over the years, and typically there is an eye-roll or squeamish response. I get it – you want your life back. But that life will not look the same, no matter how severe or mild your injury is. This injury journey is hard, and you will find your way through it. And, as I have seen time and time again, sometimes life is better. There can be an appreciation for rest, recovery, and lasting relationships. People find new careers they love or the joy of volunteering. It just takes time.
Mattie Cummins is a brain-loving neuro-social worker/journey coach/counselor and owner of Cerebrations LLC. She specializes in helping clients with neuro-issues and anxiety live their best life through functional coaching and brain education. By empowering you to harness the power of your brain and body connection, Mattie can help you understand what is happening in your brain, rewire your thoughts and reactions, and find your best life.