“Don’t give up hope” are words that I’ve heard often since getting sick with encephalitis and the resulting brain injury survivor title that came with it. I always have mixed feelings when I hear the words “Don’t give up hope”...here's why:
On one hand, of course I want to believe that I will keep getting better and better and that one day knowledge and technology will be advanced enough to help mend some of the broken links in my weird wonderful brain...a bit like how our body can heal scratches and bones. I do miss parts of the old me dearly and of course I do hope that they fully return back to "normal" one day.
On the other hand, you hear words like permanent damage, you hear the best neurologists tell you that you now have a new baseline or “a new normal”, that in spite of all their best intentions and wishes that they simply can’t fix the current situation. You get told, often may I add, that sleep, rest, gentle regular exercise, limiting the amount of stimuli and managing your routine carefully are the best allies to limit the avalanche of residual effects that occur on a daily basis.
In the last few years, I’ve come to think that hope can also be a dangerous concept. Holding on to hopes and dreams that can no longer be or that can no longer be materialized also comes at a huge cost physically and emotionally. To constantly hold on to expectations or desires that can no longer be attained is in my eyes the equivalent of setting yourself up for failure again and again...and that’s just heartbreaking for your soul and draining for your body.
We all need to be realistic enough to accept things for what they are at times...and that applies to many things in life not only brain injuries.
Reality isn’t a bad place to be if you try to find pleasure in what it actually has to offer. Being realistic isn’t you deciding to give up hope, it’s you deciding to live in the moment and to set realistic, achievable goals.
So do I still hope for the best, absolutely. Do I still hope that I will fully and completely become the old me again...no. Do I hope that I can be best best version of whoever and whatever I can be every single day...absolutely. Trauma changes you and although I sometimes would very much like to be the old me again, I know deep down this will never be. See, by surviving adversity, I’ve already learnt and changed too much to ever be a copy/paste of the old me.
I still have hopes and dreams, however I’m working really hard to keep a realistic approach to what the future may bring. You may call this a self protecting mechanism and perhaps you are absolutely right, but I call this keeping sane and doing what I can to best move forward. The sun rises everyday and so do we!