Not everything in life can be planned down to a T, you will always have the unforeseeable cramp up on you. Encephalitis “e” was definitely one of those unforeseeable thing for our family. But for the most part, you can plan ahead and planning ahead is by far your best ally if you want to enjoy as much as possible spending some time on the fun side of the fence following a brain injury.
How do you best prepare?
For me planning for an outing or social event means packing up on some sleep (afternoon rest and good night sleep) several days before the date of the event I wish to attend. It means avoiding stress at all cost to ensure it doesn’t unnecessarily deplete my brain of energy. It’s also making simple decisions such as getting gifts, outfits, babysitter sorted well ahead of time so anxiety is kept to a minimum. I make a list and tick the items off the list early so I don’t lye awake in the middle of the night thinking about everything that needs to be done...because we all know how productive that is anyway right!
Another thing that I do is that I often try to find out who’s going to be at the event. Some people from your entourage may have a better understanding of your current challenges/limitations. So should everything turn sour, then I know who are the key persons I can rely on to help me or to simply flag to me when things start taking a left turn. Disappearing at the early stage of a downward curve often means that you’ll avoid reaching the rock bottom and it also gives you the best chances of recovering quickly from a venture on the fun side of the fence. Find out who those key people are, let them know that you want them to flag those changes because once you start venturing down the path of the downward curve, I believe that our thinking abilities also go wonky and we can actually end up being our own worst enemy.
Finally and probably most importantly set REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Notice how this has been written in Capital Letters, Bold and Italic? Yeah well it's been done intentionally!
No matter how well you plan ahead, have the right people supporting you and so on, you have to be realistic and accept that your current condition still comes with some limitations.
Decide prior to the event what success will look like for you. This is individual to each person and will differ greatly depending on the residual effects you have to manage but I always feel that the emotional toll is minimised if i leave the event with a sense of achievement. For example, while I’m enjoying a bit of fun time I am hoping to achieve ABC and DEF fall in the nice to have bucket. Therefore if I manage to handle relatively successfully ABCD, then I’ll leave the event feeling like I’ve had a win. But if I’ve set the bar too high, I can guarantee that this dreadful feeling of failure will take over. So setting realistic expectations is the way to go in order to feel like you are winning!
But what if I’ve pushed my luck too far? What happens then?
Well, I call those moments payback time. I personally think that some paybacks are completely worth it but it’s up to you to decide if this logic make sense for you. Whether they are worth it or not, you are likely to experience intense fatigue following an event and depending on your mind frame you can at times also be struggling with your emotions and outlook on your new life.
That’s where you gotta pick yourself back up. But again, let’s be realistic, in order to do that successfully the first thing you will need to do is rest, rest and rest. As an individual you are more likely to chase the dark clouds away if you have energy to allow yourself to think clearly and positively. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical pill that makes the payback disappear in an instant. You may have to take it on the chin for a while. I find that I deal better with the uppercuts when I watch them go by. What I mean by that is that I try to not get too caught up with the dark clouds...I watch them go by without feeding them reasons to turn into storms. Like clouds, they eventually pass and make room for the sun to shine again. That analogy works for me but I’m sure you can find one that works for you.
One last little word of wisdom that you have probably been hearing over and over again...be kind to yourself and listen to your weird and wonderful brain. It is still quite clever at letting you know if you are pushing too hard or trying to operate way beyond your boundaries. A win is a win no matter how small it might be in comparison to your life before a brain injury...it's all about perspective
I'd love to hear about what works for you, please don't hesitate to leave a comment.
Prequal to this post: Sitting on the fence of a brain injury