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Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Updated: 3 days ago

I've done a couple of other blog posts about the emotional effects of an injury. However, I believe a brain injury or sudden disability can affect other parts of mental health, namely, confidence and body image.

The Evil Queen in Snow White said, "Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Who's The Fairest Of Them All?" She wanted to be the most beautiful woman in all the land and couldn't be happy with who she was. To clarify, I'm not comparing myself to an Evil Queen. It is a useful analogy when it comes to comparing yourself to others.

My stroke has left me with some visible effects. My eyes don't work together, so I only have vision in my left eye so combined with limited mobility, I need to use a white stick. I need help with things like crossing the road. I also have a weak left hand, so I have lost my computer skills, and my eyesight issues can exhaust me if I read more than a couple of chapters at a time. I have never driven but used to walk or take public transport. I never needed to pre-plan anything. Due to my vision and mobility, I have now lost my independence. I have to think about going out more, so I can incorporate enough time for things like taxis (in London I can no longer use the tube). I require assistance on trains and in the airport. I even need to consider the weather.

I'm trying to teach myself to touch type with my right hand. However, having gone from 80 words per minute to 10 sucks, to put it mildly. It is one of the moments when I beat myself up, and my brain tells me how useless I am. Similar to when I'm reading, which I used to love. I put my Kindle on the largest text size to help. The loss of independence has also been a massive kick in the teeth. 

I have been trying to find ways to help deal with the more self-destructive moments. If I'm frustrated trying to type, I'll close the computer and walk away for five minutes, trying to remind myself that when I started typing at age 15, I could barely manage more than 20 words a minute using both hands. This is a choice over throwing the computer out of the window. Regarding reading, I try to pick something that doesn't require much focus. I used to enjoy a mix of fiction and non-fiction books, but this is no longer possible. I only read a few chapters at a time, which seems to help.

To gain as much independence as possible and keep myself sane, I do as much as possible on my own. I'm independently mobile around my house, but if I'm out, I try walking with minimal help unless it's for safety purposes. If I'm in the supermarket, I can pick up most items myself (unless they're heavy or glass).

When it comes down to having experienced a brain injury, you have genuinely had a life-changing event, and it's normal that you lose some confidence. Body image can be a huge factor. I know I'm more self-conscious about the visible effects my stroke has left me with. A few years ago (pre-stroke). I had a personal trainer at the gym. He once asked me why I only went to the gym for sessions with him and not at any other time. I replied, "Because I'll do it all wrong, look stupid, and everyone would judge me". He responded by saying that I'm overreacting and worrying too much, and people are focused on their own lives to even think about what I'm doing or look at me. I try to implement his theory in my new life, but it's hard.

There is a phrase you hear a lot: "Every person has a unique recovery." It's true, but that doesn't make it easy not to compare yourself to others going through the same experience or even be jealous of how easily others who haven't had a brain injury can do things you used to enjoy.

The next step in my psychological recovery is to get my own "Evil Queen" out of my head and completely accept how far I've come in my journey instead of just telling myself but not believing it.

As cheesy as this sounds, brain injury survivors should not let any negativity stop them from being proud of their progress and not be comparing themselves to others. Don't let your negative thoughts overtake the positive ones.


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