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Brain Injury, Fears and Growth

Brain injury recovery comes with a great deal of unknown and uncertainty. If you find yourself feeling scared, you are not alone.

Brain injury is a beast in itself and many monsters are bound to be faced as you start navigating your recovery. These monsters come in different shapes, colours and sizes too, but we need to find a way not to be too alarmed by them. We need to learn to tame them so they can work with us and not against us. I know, when dark shadows suddenly appear left and right, it can be easier said than done. In this blog, I’ll try to give a few tips on how we can grow from facing what scares us.

What to feed your brain?

First things first, you want to give yourself the best chances to recover. We aren’t mindless zombies and an easy place to start is to feed your brain correctly. The basics things that you can feed your brain include:

  • Daily movement

  • Good thoughts

  • Good food

  • Good sleep

It all seems pretty simple on paper, but doing these 4 things consistently can be challenging on a tired and bruised brain. A good recovery plan should encompass of a range of brain, body and mind strategies and I think it is super important not to overlook the mind component.

Starting with those 4 basic elements can really set your recovery up for success so if you are finding this challenging, make sure you ask your GP for support. They may be able to guide you in the right direction or direct you towards someone who can.

Hiding behind a mask

Halloween disguise of Rocket (Guardian of the Galaxy) in from of a tombstone

During brain injury recovery, we often feel like we aren’t in control. It is easy to start hiding behind a mask to avoid confronting some of our fears. Wearing a mask can make us feel nice and safe, but it can also drastically start shrinking the world as we knew it.

Things that weren’t scaring us before may now feel scary. Keep in mind that by giving in to your fears too often, you may also end up isolating yourself further. So how can we avoid seeing those fears become overwhelming? Being brave while allowing us to feel those fears can be a great place to start. A few examples of how you can start working on this:

  • Write down on a piece of paper which are your predominating fears when you go out in the real world.

  • Once you’ve identified your fears, think of strategies that may be helpful in overcoming those fears.

  • Keep your strategies simple and amend them as you move on that spectrum between fear and bravery.

You may not be able to overcome all of those fears completely, but if you get in a position where you can manage them and accept them, you’ll find that the mask you were hiding behind may become obsolete.

The person behind the disguise

Our sense of identity is often challenged following brain injury. Although we may have had what we were good at, what we liked and where we wanted to go well defined prior to the injury, there might now be a sense of loss, unknown and uncertainty that obscures and changes the path that we had paved for ourselves.

The truth is that there is a huge amount of work that needs to take place to figure out who we are and what is going to make us happy after brain injury. It can feel overwhelming, but it can also offer a blank canvas.

I think that you may find that once you start identifying your priorities and what truly matters to you, finding what brings you joy and happiness will reveal itself. Then, the beauty is that you can start building that new identity. You can build your own unique character. It might bear the shape of a witch with ware wolf feet and hands, but if it suits your core beliefs, then it’s all that matters.

Remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Although discovering your unique self can be scary, try not to be distracted by the others’ disguises. Finding a way to embrace your unique self can help manage, accept and overcome some of your fears.

It’s your spaceship

Scary clowns and harlequin Halloween disguise

We talked about the feeling of having little or no control earlier and of how this can induce some fears. No one would learn to operate a spaceship in a day, so give yourself time. Break things down in smaller pieces, focus on one element at a time and when you get really good at it, add another component. This might help you feel more in control and contribute to reducing some of those fears. It might also be that your spaceship can’t be operated alone so asking for help and accepting support can offer reassurance which may be helpful in leveling your bravery.

How will you face your fears?

It is far from being an easy process, but there is a huge amount of growth that can occur following a traumatic event such as a brain injury. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG), I’d highly recommend that you do a bit of research on the topic. I think that you are likely to really relate to this concept and that it may offer some hope too.

Brain injury and facing our fears come hand in hand, but remember that a huge amount of strength and a new appreciation for life can emerge from gently facing what makes us uncomfortable. I hope this blog offered you a few ideas to explore to initiate this process.

On this note, Happy Halloween!

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