Being confronted with a brain injury did stop me in my tracks. At first I did not think it had. I seriously thought I could ‘beat’ it. Loss of cognizance of my ability and condition was one unacknowledged loss due to ABI.
While I initially fought it and hoped to push on, it quickly became apparent that pushing on was not happening. In the first few days I was working from my daily rhythm and momentum. As each new day dawned I found it increasingly more difficult to get myself ready and organized and out of the house. Eventually I was arriving at work after lunch time, thinking I would get a bit of work done yet that day. If it was that difficult to get to work it doesn’t take much imagination to realize how the work panned out.
Trying to carry on after a brain injury is like pushing with a rope. No matter how hard you try or what techniques you think you can invent, it’s just not possible.
I went from a 2 hour daily commute with 50 hour work weeks requiring long term planning and daily execution of tasks without giving it a second thought to struggling to get through a single day. I went from living with a long term outlook to living hour by hour and even failing at that.
Gradually I realized the importance of setting some personal goals. My short term goal of cycling received a blow a few months after my ABI. My participation in a ten day Rocky Mountain bike tour scheduled for 6 months after my injury would have to go ahead without me.
It was about a year after my injury that I started to formulate some new goals, one being a long term.. I started to put into place my determination to do more cycling. I wanted to bike across Canada.
Needless to say, enough people tried to dissuade me from going ahead with the plan. From an outsider’s perspective I can understand the concern. The concerns were coming from family and friends who had seen me struggle to get through each day. They had seen me walk out of events within 30 minutes. They had seen me absent myself from musicals and large group gatherings. All with a concern that my symptoms would be exacerbated and worsen my ABI condition.
One thing I’ve come to realize. Activities might exacerbate my symptoms but my symptoms do not affect my condition. The symptoms are just a picture of how I’m living with my condition. You could say my symptoms are the ‘colour’ of my body that day. The colour doesn’t damage anything. My OT had assured me that even when my symptoms related to sensory overload went into the extreme zone and persisted there was absolutely no way it would worsening my ABI condition.
The one thing that would affect my ABI condition is a re-injury. Another blow to the head or violent shake up (which can happen even with a helmet on) will worsen my condition.
I had the frightful experience of a re-injury a few month back. The blow to my head put me back to some of the early symptoms that confirmed my ABI diagnosis. All the current symptom were severely heightened. My headaches returned. My tolerance for vestibular loading was so bad that I could not tolerate the washboard effect of a gravel road. My energy level would be zapped within a half hour of doing something cognitive.
For those who have been following my blog, let me say that the symptoms of my re-injury cleared up in about 3 weeks.
At this time I am 3 months from starting my fully supported cycling trip across this continent. Achieving this goal, in the way I have defined success will help determine my next long term goal. In the process of achieving my goal I hope to become aware what new things my changing limitations and abilities will allow me to do.
My recent designation, having reached the 2 year mark since my injury, is that I am not able to perform any reasonable alternate occupation. By itself that would be devastating and discouraging. It sounds like someone telling me that I’ve reached the end of the road of making helpful contributions in my community. That designation seen in the context of personal long term goals doesn’t have the same negative effect. Rather it affirms that the support systems that are in place will continue to be there to support me as I strive to complete new goals.
Having ABI means my brain will continue to function neuro-atypically. Despite that, my overarching goal is to see my overall functioning continue to improve. Finding ways and means to be of help and service for others is both motivating and encouraging.