Some health experts feel that the better a traumatic brain injury (TBI) patient accepts what has happened and is able to adapt to his or her new situation, the better they will succeed in their recovery. How people deal with injury, ill-health and especially TBI varies enormously – some people thrive on proving doctors wrong about their recovery; while others work quietly and steadily towards a goal. Whatever you feel about your head injury is normal for you – and highs are often preceded by lows in recovering from all traumatic situations, so don’t give up or give in as it is a gradual process.
Counselling and psychotherapy
Recovering from head injury can be a very frustrating process – and it is easy to attribute other problems in your life to that frustration, or feel that talking to someone sympathetic like a counsellor might help. The purpose of a psychotherapist or counsellor is not necessarily to be sympathetic, but to help you address issues in your life and overcome them, and this can be difficult and traumatic in itself, involving real dedication to a programme of therapy over months or even years.
Make sure you really want to commit to this as therapy can unearth all sorts of buried issues – and talking about your situation or past unhappiness in itself means having to tread old ground. Counselling and therapy is not for everyone – especially if you have a head injury or brain injury which can leave your thought processes in disarray – look for a psychotherapist who specialises in brain injury patients if you want to go ahead.
First year recovery
It is generally thought that the first year following head or brain injury is a good indicator of how well a patient will recover. This is not always the case, though, as every head injury is different – and finding the right therapy or treatment at the right time can really help you make a breakthrough. Brain injury is one area of medicine which is a focus for research and new therapies and treatments are constantly being investigated.
You have a right to feel angry, frustrated and fed up – but only for a short while. Recovery from injury is an ongoing process – you may feel you just want to get back to your normal life, but every day you try something different or do something new, you are getting back to normal. It may not be the normal you would like – but use your frustration to propel you onwards and if your recovery hits a plateau, just trying a new experience, however simple, can help you change gear again and take you forward.
IQ tests are sometimes used to evaluate recovery – but a normal IQ reading (100-plus) for a brain injury patient who used to have a genius IQ (140-plus), may not represent a step forward. IQ does not tell the whole picture with brain injury recovery – and frankly it is a lot more useful to be able to carry out daily tasks than understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Understanding the offside rule is even more useful and a true sign of genius, of course.
After head injuries, a whole new world involving the medicine cabinet may open up to you. Medication is not necessarily the solution to your recovery, but can help control unpleasant symptoms like seizures, although drugs to treat these may affect your memory. Discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of the medications you are prescribed – and how they might affect you. If you are firmly against taking medications, as some people are, discuss long-term objectives regarding prescription drugs and how you can eventually cut down to the minimum and still control symptoms.
A neurological evaluation of “normal” after head injury can still mean there is some brain injury and loss of function affecting day-to-day life. The type of head injury you have suffered can also impact on a normal neurological evaluation – trauma to the head which causes brain injury in different areas may mean doctors cannot always pinpoint the main area of residual damage, even if the actual areas of internal injury have healed. If you have a normal evaluation but are still having issues with mobility or cognitive skills, discuss this with your doctor.
Praying for a miracle cure shows that you are a normal human being. Rather than look for miracle cures, gen up on the latest clinical research and discuss the future possibilities with your doctors. Knowing how the future landscape looks with regard to new drugs and therapies can be both reassuring and boost your optimism about the future. Many people find taking part in research and becoming involved in finding new therapies for head/brain injury extremely rewarding – for example, research into post-traumatic headache (PTH) or biomedical studies. The Medical Research Council (MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit) is a good place to start if you are interested in joining a clinical research trial into brain injury.
Letting yourself be looked after unnecessarily
Many patients are in a state of shock after head injury – or any surgery or injury. Being looked after can help make you feel secure as you make your way back to health again. However, being looked after can be addictive, so if you feel yourself actually getting to like the attention and caring you receive, try and wean yourself off it. Sitting back and letting others care for you more than they need to is known as learned dependency – it may make you feel nice and safe, but you need to get going again on the road to recovery. The sense of achievement you will feel at being able to gradually look after yourself more and more can also spur you on and boost your optimism about recovering from your brain injury and getting back to a more normal life.
Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University and has particular interests in cars, sports, parenting, safety, politics, law and health. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily the brain injury experts who offer support and rehabilitation for individuals tthat require brain injury compensation services.