This isn’t the story I planned to write, and probably isn’t the story you’d expect. I’ll start with what I was taught in rehab:
- Brain injury doesn’t go away so self-awareness is essential to being at your best.
- It’s incredibly hard to see your own progress.
- The goal is to accept that I’m not “me” anymore (i.e. the pre-injury me) and measure myself by a new yardstick.
Yup… living with brain injury’s a daily struggle. I don’t see when I make progress–I just raise the bar and work harder. Eventually I’m overwhelmed and blame myself for not using strategies I know will help. And honestly, I still measure myself by my old yardstick.
The day before my accident I was a Senior VP, juggling a ton of work, solving problems, and always sure I was right. The day after, I couldn’t even figure out how to get out of bed, and lost every shred of confidence I had. Even the fun stuff was hard. I was always passionate about reading but now rarely pick up a book. My mind can’t focus and neither can my eyes because TBI gave me “monocular diplopia.” I see double using both eyes, and each single eye sees double too. So even when I can follow a story, I get exhausted trying to read the words.
At times, I’ve been dangerously close to defining myself by my TBI, but maybe that’s part of the process. Despite all the bad stuff– loss, frustration, blame–somehow I got used to living with brain injury, and now I rarely think I’m not “me” anymore. Brain injury feels less like the crisis that destroyed my life, and more like part of the person I am. A funny thing happened on the way to acceptance. I started to get better.
Ten years ago, I was struck by a car.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by a revelation.
Who knows how many “lives” I’ll have. The first was before the accident, the second was post-TBI as a survivor, and now, I think I’m moving on to my third life: post post-TBI.
This past year, many of my doctors said I’ve improved. Since I was unaware of any progress, I just assumed I was better at hiding my deficits. But the other day, my eye doctor checked my vision using the eye chart. We were both surprised by the results. It, too, had improved. I thought long and hard until I realized what happened. For years, I couldn’t really see the letters on the chart, so I guessed. That day I didn’t have to guess–I actually saw what was there. Against all odds, I also saw my progress and believed in it.
There’s a lot of work ahead. I don’t quite accept my post-injury “self,” but I know that while I’m still living with TBI, It is not who I am. I guess that means I’m not “me” anymore (again).
How great is that?