by Linda W. Arms
After a brain injury, every day brings constant reminders that our brain is not working well. For many of us, everything becomes a challenge. Every movement we make, speaking, seeing, reading, counting, driving, cooking, cleaning, walking, hearing, thinking and so much more becomes difficult. Nothing feels normal. With these challenges, we become even more fatigued and less able to do the things we are trying to do. It becomes a vicious cycle that we cannot move out of. Slowly as we get better, we start experiencing a “new normal”.
I think our “new normal” is a combination of us forgetting how it used to be, and that we have actually gotten better. We also adapt by changing things around us and how we do things. We stop doing certain things because it just isn’t possible or isn’t that important for us to spend the energy on. We become much more functional and after a while we don’t think about our brain injury every single day. Sometimes it takes years to get to this point.
Many of us don’t want our brain injury to define us so it is important not to constantly think of ourselves as “damaged” or that we can’t do something. Sometimes we have to redefine who we are and what our life is to be. Maybe we can’t do that job we had before. Maybe we can’t climb mountains. But there are other new and different things we can do.
Living with our “new normal” is fine and works most of the time. Sometimes, however, the brain fairy comes back for a visit. The brain fairy that causes all that trouble but also heals things in our heads is always lurking in the background. Sometimes that visit brings back many symptoms we thought we’ve overcome. A frightening experience like two large dogs barking, running and jumping at you causes you to have that sense of visual discombobulation or you feel unbalanced; your mind goes blank and the fog returns or something else just isn’t feeling normal again.
Sometimes, the brain fairy returns for a longer visit such as when you are faced with big life disturbances such as family problems, money problems, illness or other things that weigh heavily on you. The stress, the emotions, and the mental work required to deal with these things is more than your injured brain can deal with. Symptoms return, fatigue sets in, everything becomes much more difficult. It is a time to step back and take care of yourself. It is time to ask for help. Remember the early months or years after your brain injury when you did nothing much other than try to heal. You rested more, people helped you more, you did less, you put less things on your “to do” list, you didn’t do some things you used to do.
For whatever reason the brain fairy returns to you, remember it will pass. Sometimes it is a short visit. Sometimes you don’t know when it will end. But remember that eventually it will get better again. Pace yourself. Be patient and good to yourself in the meantime.