Advice

Advice on meeting new people after a brain injury

“Does this person need to know that I have a brain injury?”
“Should I tell this person I have a brain injury?”
“Do I want to tell this person I have a brain injury?”
“I’ve just met them why should I tell them such a personal thing?”
“I don’t know them properly yet. How are they going to react?”
“Am I going to be a burden if I tell them?”
“Ok, I’ll tell them. But how am I going to tell them?”
“What if I get too nervous and don’t explain myself properly?”

Welcome to the thoughts you may have when meeting someone new when you live with a brain injury. Sounds overwhelming doesn’t it? Sadly, sometimes it is. Not to worry though because in this blog post I’ll be answering these thoughts and giving advice on how to handle them.

“Does this person need to know that I have a brain injury?”

It depends who it is but there are certain people who do need to know and your employer is one of them. The best way to tell them? Write a letter. This was advice given to me by my Occupational Therapist, it gives them something for your work record and takes the pressure off you having to explain everything there and then. In the letter, say you’ve had a brain injury and describe what you struggle with most. Then explain how they might be able to help accommodate those difficulties and invite any questions that will help to open up a comfortable conversation and help them learn more about your injury and the support they can provide. This may all sound rather daunting, it certainly was for me. You don’t have to worry though because under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace for a disabled employee.

A new boyfriend or girlfriend is also a person who needs to know. Your brain injury is a big part of you and they need to know that, being open and able to talk about anything is very important in a relationship. Hiding something as big as a brain injury would be hard, stressful and wouldn’t be healthy for either of you. Tell them as soon as possible. I would even say tell them on the first date, it gets all the thoughts and what if’s out of your head. Wait a few hours to see if you like them or if you think the date is going well, then tell them. There’s no point telling someone something that personal if you don’t feel comfortable with them. Also, you want to see how they react, you don’t want to wait months to tell them because by then you’ll be emotionally invested and they might not react the way you want them to.

“Should I tell this person I have a brain injury?”

Only if you feel comfortable, you don’t have to tell someone straight away. Give it time to see if you feel like they’re going to become a part of your life. However, if your symptoms are playing up in front of a complete stranger sometimes the fact you have a brain injury just slips out because you feel you have to explain yourself. This doesn’t matter because you’re never going to see them again and when this happens with me I feel a little better that I’ve told them because I’ve spread a little bit of brain injury awareness.

“Do I want to tell this person I have a brain injury?”

Need, should and want are all very different things, especially when it comes to brain injury.

This thought occurs when someone is upsetting you or when it’s a person you don’t trust. So my advice is don’t tell the person. It won’t slip out because deep down you know you don’t want to tell them and this is because they’re upsetting you and they don’t deserve you telling them something so personal. This could be someone you’ve known for a while or a complete stranger. Although the point may come where you’ve had enough of them upsetting you and it slips out in anger or sadness, you can’t help this and I don’t have great advice if this happens because it’s happened with me where I’ve had both good and bad reactions, I think each scenario is different.

“I’ve just met them why should I tell them such a personal thing?”
“I don’t know them properly yet. How are they going to react?”

These thoughts fall under the above two thoughts, it’s about how you feel with them. Do you feel you’ll come to trust them in the future? It’s all about timing and sometimes it’s ok to wait until you tell someone you have a brain injury.

“Am I going to be a burden if I tell them?”

One of the most nerve wracking thoughts and often why it takes you so long to tell someone and you’ll keep thinking it unless you tell them. So when you have this thought, as nerve wracking as it is it’s best to get it over and done with. Most of the time people never react in a horrible way and if they do they shouldn’t be a part of your life.

“Ok, I’ll tell them. But how am I going to tell them?”

The easiest way to tell someone you have a brain injury is to just say it. There’s no need to over complicate it, simply say: “I have a brain injury” and then list the things you think will be helpful for them to know.

“What if I get too nervous and don’t explain myself properly?”

This has happened to me many times. The nerves just take over but that’s ok because at least you’ve said it. The person you’ve told will probably ask questions or want to talk more about it which usually helps the situation and you can explain yourself properly then.

A few more pieces of advice:

  • You know yourself and your brain injury more than anyone else so sometimes you just feel whether it’s the right or wrong time to tell someone about it.
  • If you think any of these thoughts run through your head too much, maybe you should tell the person to give yourself peace of mind.
  • It’s important to remember that you need to look after yourself when you have a brain injury and you need people in your life to respect and understand that. Read more advice on how to look after yourself here.

I hope you’ve found this advice helpful, it was inspired by my recent move from Northumberland to Glasgow, which is the reason I haven’t published anything on here for a while and I apologise for that, I’m back now though. Something fun that also inspired this advice? I’ve recently learnt how to knit! (More on that in another blog post coming soon) and I went to my first ever knit and natter where I met a bunch of new people. I went for a meal with one of them and wasn’t planning to tell her but because of circumstances (noise sensitivity) I did and it turned into a great conversation.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Comment below or on one of these links

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