World Mental Health Day

#WorldMentalHealthDay – Your Brain Injury Does Not Define You, or Does It?

#WorldMentalHealthDay 2016: 10th October Every Year

Your Brain Injury Does Not Define You, or Does It?… Sometimes it feels like it does. Especially when we have our bad days where we feel sorry for ourselves and can’t help but think ‘Why me?’

These thoughts overcome the positive thoughts more than they should though. I still can’t get out of my head the first time I went to group therapy after my injury; A man who had a stroke had lost his sense of smell and taste, he said he would often burn things in the oven because of this. He then started to cry, everyone just stared at him and the psychologist said “It’s ok to cry”, no one hugged him, no one comforted him and no one said the most important thing of all… ‘You are still alive!’ and because this my first session I had no idea what to do. This was also my first experience of being around people who had a brain injury.

I had been alone for 9 months, I didn’t even know there were others like me! After my brain surgery I was treated as if I just had a quick surgery that wouldn’t take much healing time. I was out of hospital after 4 days. I was admitted to another hospital a few days later after some follow up problems (vomiting, dizziness and dehydration) I stayed for a week then was sent home.

During both hospital stays I was never told about the life long problems I would have. The chronic fatigue, the memory problems, noise sensitivity, the mood swings, getting confused over the simplest task and so on. Almost 4 years has passed since my injury and as time has gone on I’ve learnt to manage these problems, but the one thing I haven’t been able to manage is the mental change I’ve recognised in myself. Even now I can spend days at a time thinking about nothing but my injury. I still have the mood swings and I hate the fact that I have to nap so often. I’m constantly battling with who I am now. I don’t understand how I’m not who I used to be, I don’t understand why I can’t go back to who I used to be. I don’t understand why I can’t move past this, yes it was a life changing thing that happened to me but it’s not me. I am constantly going back and forth between these thoughts and having arguments to myself. I just want to get over it, that is all I want… Why isn’t it that easy? Shouldn’t it be that easy?

I really hope I was a one off and people after a brain injury get help faster than me, however the people I’ve spoken to since starting Alphabet Brains it doesn’t seem that way.

So, I have to be the positive one even though I have my bad days. I have to become the person that will say “You’re still alive” when no one else will. I understand more than that psychiatrist who didn’t help someone in their lowest point, I understand what it’s like to juggle positive thoughts and negative thoughts at the same time.

When I started to write this I really believed that “Your injury doesn’t define you”, now I’m not so sure. It does a little bit as it is part of you forever, it can be a good thing. It can help you get through those bad days. To know you’ve defeated something that should have killed you can make you feel brave. So, your injury does define you. In a positive way and a negative way, if you get the balance right it will make you feel less like a victim and more like a survivor.

After all the brain is where all our emotions are stored, where our mental health stems from and if it gets damaged of course we are going to struggle. I just wish people waking up after brain surgery or a brain injury knew this straight away, rather than finding out months or even years down the line.

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