After a Traumatic Brain Injury: Getting to Know Yourself Again
By Tanya Smith, TBI Survivor
After surviving an injury/disability such as a Traumatic Brain Injury; you do need to grieve for the person that was lost. That was you, and you were awesome. The “new” person, before you, will be just as amazing. You have to get to know your new self and develop him/her to be your spectacular “new” self. As I’ve said before, ‘God doesn’t leave junk on his precious planet.’ Getting to know yourself again is not something that can be accomplished overnight, or in a few days. It took you time, before your injury, to develop the person that you were. It’s going to take just as much energy and time to developed yourself again. This is something that can be done. Period. I know of what I speak.
Dig down and make a chart of all your likes and dislikes you did before. If you can not hold a paying job, like me, find a volunteer job that will incorporate those things you like that you jotted down on your chart. Again, this was something I had to do. I can remember discussing my likes and dislikes with my Mother. I told her I really liked that volunteer job I had when she was working at the Youth Activity Center. I loved being involved with all of the sports, tournaments, and field trips we had taken, in West Germany in the mid 80’s. She was the leader of the Girl Scout Troop, and I was an excited Girl Scout involved with our troop. I loved the camping trips we took. I told Mom, ‘Geese, I can’t find volunteer work like that because there’s no job that exists where you have so much fun! Mom shot back with, ‘What do you think I was doing when your father and our family was stationed in Stuttgart, West Germany? That job at the Youth Activity Center, that you enjoyed volunteering at and where I was the director, was a job!!’ ‘Oh yeah.’ I shot back at her.
I had to take into account that since my injury, I wasn’t as athletic as I used to be. I can’t get out and toss the ball around with my brothers like I used to do. This was something I tried to do even when the doctors told me, ‘your abilities will not be as sharp as they used to be before the accident.’ I, of course, didn’t believe them and had to try it with my brothers in our back yard. I didn’t want to give into the fact that my skill levels had changed. I joined a softball team at a church. I bought all of the necessary equipment, telling myself, ‘o.k., you gave your body some years to heal now you’ll be able to play like before. This will be something you’ll be able to do again.’ Uh-uh. I quit, I became too frustrated with trying to be like I used to be. I held onto my softball cleats and glove to give to my niece when she gets older. I know she’ll be a baseball fan!!
Mom suggested that I work in nursing homes doing activities with the residents. She said, ‘when staff see how involved you are with the residents, and your work, they’ll love your assistance, as I did back at the Y.A.’ This is so true, the appreciation I get from everyone is so heartwarming. They saw right away that I wasn’t some person looking to bide time with them to fill up my day. I get involved, smile and laugh, and I make everyone happy. Each day I show up I’m greeted with the warmest welcomes by the staff and residents. They are all smiles to see me enter the door.
Now they have expanded my responsibilities, as I’ve asked them to do, with field and shopping trips in our community. I couldn’t be happier. At the end of each day I close with, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Sleep well.’ The staff tell me daily, ‘Thank you for your help today; we really appreciate the work you do. We’ll see you tomorrow.’ I’ve told my boss, ‘that the thanks I receive from you each day couldn’t be better payment for my services.’ I have the warmest feeling in my gut and heart with the work I do.