Reading after a brain injury

I spoke about reading with my psychologist in our last session and he was surprised about how much I read because usually people with brain injuries find it hard to concentrate for long periods of time or get distracted too easily. I am like that but for some reason when it comes to reading all that washes away and I am calm, concentrated and focused. Thank you books, I love you.

Some more reasons why my brain and I love books:

  • They take me away into a new world, my imagination is working… My brain is working.
  • They take my mind off things.
  • They’re a good way to relax.
  • They’re quiet.
  • They make me think.
  • I write reviews for them which keeps my brain thinking.
  • They’re pretty (not really relevant to my brain injury but I’m adding it anyway)

Update: 2018. I can now read in noisy places, mixed in with all the sounds below. Keep trying, recovery and progress is a long road but so worth it.

However, all of the above happens when I’m in complete silence which is great for when I’m home but not so great when I’m out and about. In a cafe for example, a place where most people go to read and a place that’s perfect for reading because cuppa tea, biscuits and reading? Perfection. Unfortunately for me, this is not the case… Noise sensitivity takes over everything. My psychologist’s solution to this was to practice reading at home with noises around: the radio, music or television. At the time I thought this was a great idea, but wow it is hard work. Even though the noises I put on are as quiet as can be I’m re-reading words and sentences but I keep trying because it would be nice to be able to read surrounded by noise.

I wrote this blog post because I wanted to share some parts of books that spoke to me on a brain injury level and I hope they speak to you too. Some books are specifically about brain injury or brain surgery and some have nothing to do with brains but I’ve discovered that you can find little connections even if you’re not trying to:

Paul Kalanithi – When Breath Becomes Air

The families who gather around their beloved—their beloved whose sheared heads contained battered brains—do not usually recognise the full significance

Johnny Cash – Forever Words

milk and honey – rupi kaur

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Sometimes on the rocky windy path of recovery what feels like failure can be a step forward

Henry Marsh – Do No Harm

No particular quotes from this book and I haven’t read it recently but it holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first book I read after my brain injury/brain surgery, over a year and half after my accident. Such a big gap but I was just so scared to read in case I couldn’t read like I used to. Also, at the time I was at a crossroads with my recovery, I was trying to see how lucky I was but at the same time struggling to come to terms with what had happened to me and how I’d changed since my accident.  Despite all of these feelings I read it in six days. Henry Marsh writes about all the ins and outs of his experiences, emotions, what patients were like, what the brain looks like and how to find a balance in it all. Plus, he is honest and speaks openly about mistakes he’s made.

The Sad Ghost Club

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

It is confusing to fall asleep in the daytime and wake up at night
Chronic fatigue and napping.

the princess saves herself in this one – amanda lovelace

This poem reminded me of the main reasons I started Alphabet Brains: To get brain injury survivors voices out there and raise awareness.

One way of doing this? Survivor Stories.

Read Survivor Stories:

Submit your own Survivor Story:

Do you have any books that speak to you on a brain injury level? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comment section below or on the facebook pagetwitter or instagram.

5 thoughts on “Reading after a brain injury

  1. Hi, I am still struggling with reading books, I was an avid reader before the brain surgery. I could easily get through a novel in a couple of days. When I came round from surgery I found my senses so heightened that I couldn’t focus on words at all. I had problems with my speech and word finding, so information processing especially in written form was a no for me. Any background noise, light or movement I couldn’t focus to read at all.
    It was the queens 90th birthday when I had surgery, so her celebration photos where in magazines, I loved to look at the photos of her and the royal family. I couldn’t read so I focused on the faces and got a lot of comfort from that. As I started to get better and came home, the first book I read was about the queens childhood and history of the royal family, the little princesses. It was simple and an interesting read. I found a new passion, it took me 3 months to finish it.
    1 year on from surgery, I still can’t read for more than 30 minutes at a time, it’s exhausting. I am better suited to short articles and stories with pictures, rather than novels. Maybe in time I will improve?
    But for now I enjoy my new love and interest in the royal family and how they serve our country. I even have wrote to the queen and told her what comfort I gained in that poorly time in hospital from her photos and she wrote back!

    1. Joanne,
      It’s exactly the same for me. Before my 3rd & fial brain injury in June 1016, I read 2-3 books per week, many magazine articles & links to sites on the internet. Now the books sit on my night table & my laptop goes unopened for days. It’s just too exhausting. I miss reading & my thirst for information the most

      1. Hi Julie, I have loads of books too, all waiting to be read, I used to be caught up in a novel and couldn’t put it down, but that desire has gone for now. I still have a go, does it matter that it takes months now instead of days? I’ve just started reading ‘ All over the place’ by Geraldine Deruiter, it’s chatty and short chapters, it’s grabbing my attention to a book for the first time since May 2016.
        I’ve been looking into neuro plasticity, how the brain can ‘rewire’ its self and find new pathways to relearn, so I am going to keep on with my short bursts of reading, hoping that it will improve. I crave information, but my brain can’t process it. Which is frustrating, it’s hard adapting to this slow pace. We have no choice but to plod along. 1 page a day can lead to 2, then before you know it a chapter is read. Plenty of brain rest needed though! Good luck

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