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Living With A TBI
And Feeling Disconnected
After

Feeling disconnected is a common experience for many people living with a brain injury. This can show in various ways, in many different ways.  I've done some research on coping strategies.

“What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden, but it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”

 

Emma Stone

Disconnected from oneself: A brain injury can cause changes to cognitive skills, memory, personality, and physical abilities. These changes can lead to a sense of disconnection and feeling completely different from your "old" self.  It may be that people struggle to recognise themselves or do things they used to enjoy. There are several coping strategies for this including:

    

  • Self-awareness exercises: Activities such as mindfulness or other self-reflection exercises can help survivors reconnect with their thoughts, emotions, and awareness of their body.  it can help achieve a sense of inner peace and reduce stress    

  • Journaling: Writing about your experiences, feelings, and thoughts can provide an outlet for your emotions.  It's important to express emotions you don't necessarily feel comfortable talking to others about. 

  • Therapy: Speaking with a therapist who is experienced in treating people who have had a brain injury can provide support and guidance in navigating the challenges of self-identity after a brain injury.  I use a therapist whom I saw before everything happened and I am currently learning strategies to help me with the effects my stroke has had.

Disconnected from others: Brain injuries can cause problems with social skills, communication abilities, and relationships.  This can lead to feelings of isolation and being disconnected from other people. Strategies to help with this include:

    

  • Support groups: While family and friends offer amazing support, connecting with people who have faced similar challenges can be equally beneficial. Developing relationships with fellow survivors provides understanding, solidarity, and having a community where emotional support and shared experiences are invaluable.

    

  • Communication strategies: Learning effective techniques can help survivors maintain relationships with others despite difficulties that can impair communication (such as aphasia). 

    

  • Educating others: Having friends, family, and colleagues learn about the effects of a TBI can help them understand and support a survivor, reducing feelings of loneliness.  Each person's recovery journey is completely unique, and the support needs can vary greatly. 

Disconnected from the world: A TBI can affect the brain's ability to perform certain tasks like perception, sensory processing, and cognitive functions.  This can cause survivors to feel disconnected from the world around them. Coping strategies for this include:

    

  • Engaging the senses: Activities that engage the mind, such as spending time outdoors, listening to music, or doing arts and crafts, can help someone feel more grounded and connected and improve overall mental health.

 

  • Routine and structure: Establishing routines and structure in daily life can provide a sense of stability and predictability, reducing feelings of disorientation and disconnect.

    

  • Physical activity: Each recovery is individual, but undertaking regular physical activity (within personal capabilities) can improve mental health, cognitive skills, and overall well-being, allowing someone to feel more connected with the world and their life in general.

Survivors should ask doctors, therapists, and family for help if they are feeling disconnected or with their emotional well-being as a whole. There are different coping methods that can help. It takes time and support, but it is possible to adjust to life after a brain injury and discover new connections and purpose.

Take Time
For Yourself.

Acknowledge the inevitable moments of frustration and sadness during recovery from a stroke. Recognize it as a continuous journey.

 

While family and friends provide crucial support, seek additional understanding and camaraderie from other stroke survivors online or locally. Try tofocus  on any positive aspects amidst the inevitable challenges

“It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.”

Diane Von Furstenberg

While it's important to focus on therapy, you do need to take time out to relax. If you enjoy playing sports, you can use time to take your mind off your routine and exercises that will utilise cognitive and physical skills. Yoga and meditation are great ways to give your brain some downtime.

 

I have an iPhone and have downloaded an app called FitOn. It gives multiple workouts, from cardio and pilates to HIIT. There is a subscription fee of approximately £30 per year (2023). However, parts of the app can be accessed without a subscription.

 

If you're interested in gaming (my favourites happen to be Mario Party and Zelda.), it's an excellent way to take some time to chill out, and you can also spend time with friends. An added benefit is that using the controllers also works on your hands.

 

Cooking is an excellent way to get some independence back. You get to choose what you cook; you can go shopping and get some ingredients (potentially on your own) and complete cooking by yourself as much as you can. This can be seen as taking time away from traditional therapy but still works on your cognitive skills. Completing a food shop, reading a recipe and measuring ingredients require planning.

My support network has been invaluable to my recovery. My family have been incredibly dedicated. I had daily visits to the hospital, even when I was too ill to realise anyone was there. As soon as my rehab started, they have been so supportive. My rehab therapy was fantastic and has taught me to combine my stubbornness and determination with creating realistic goals (I know I'm getting better because the words "Tara, slow down" are used a lot less)! My community therapists have helped me progress considerably since leaving rehab. They have used my inability to give in to expand my goals further. I have a lovely lady from my local community who helps me daily. Being unable to drive, I can go out in the community, which is vital for recovery.

Keep a journal (use your phone if your hands are too weak to hold a pen), and take videos and photos of your physical progress. You may not necessarily notice your daily improvement, but having these as a reference helps from an emotional point of view. It's essential to acknowledge any negative feelings, and you should talk about them to people, but if you'd prefer to have a quiet day and not do any therapy, that's ok!

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